Friday, March 24, 2006
Curriculum, budget keeps Carlisle School Committee busy
Instead of reading, writing and arithmatic, the Carlisle School Committee heard about keyboarding, social studies, and budget proposals at their March 15 meeting.
Technology Integration Specialist Cyd McCann gave an update on the school's progress on its web site. McCann said the school is working to improve home to school communications, and she is considering adding parent-resource links for homework and other topics of interest. She said by putting the Buzz online the school is saving on labor to copy and distribute the bi-monthly newsletters, as well as saving paper costs.
McCann teaches keyboarding skills to fourth-grade students in an eight-week program each year. Fourth graders learn how to type on the keyboard in three twenty-minute sessions a week. The object of the program is to get students started by learning where the keys are on the keyboard and how to use all ten fingers when typing. Teachers can request a refresher course if they see students need it.
She acknowledged that eight weeks is a short introduction to the keyboard, but she is realistic that it is hard to find time in the school day for the program without taking away from student academic time. McCann recommends parents reinforce the skills taught at school by using any of the available commercial keyboard software programs at home. Students should be supervised when using the programs, or they tend to go back to the hunt-and-peck methods of typing, she said.
McCann said students in sixth-grade language art classes have just started using an on-line blogging tool. The teacher asked students a question based on a book they are reading, Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. Students posted their answers on the blog site anonymously, though their teacher can identify each student's comments.
Social studies curriculum
School librarian Sandy Kelly gave an update on the social studies curriculum. This is her first year as social studies curriculum coordinator for the school, a job she shared last year with fifth-grade teacher Bill Tate who is now retired. In addition to being the librarian, she is certified as a teacher and has taught social studies at the middle school level.
The school is working to align its social studies curriculum with the Massachusetts Department of Education standards. "Carlisle is in the process of developing benchmarks for student learning using the state frameworks," she told the School Committee. One goal of curriculum frameworks is to allow all teachers, including newer ones, to teach the same information with consistency, she said.
This year grades five and seven will take the MCAS social studies tests, though in previous years the school has received no feedback or results on the tests from the state. That is because the state is still "testing the test" by examining student answers, Kelly said, and curriculum frameworks are still being finalized by the state. "The social studies frameworks are not there yet. The state is still refining the tests by testing questions and assessing what they want kids to know." She said she is not certain if the school will receive social studies test results this year. The state curriculum frameworks are located at: www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks
Many student social studies projects are research-based and tie in with the library's resources for research. She praised teachers for their ability to make social studies interesting to students. "One of the hallmarks of Carlisle's teachers is their wonderful projects and ideas that make kids think."
The school committee acknowledged that it is tough for teachers to fit social studies into an already packed curriculum. "Reading and math are crowding out science and social studies," commented School Committee chair David Dockterman.
Kelly also thanked the Carlisle Education Foundation for helping to fund new wall maps and world globes in classrooms, as well as sixth-grade social studies textbooks.
The school budget request is $8,416,520 for the upcoming FY07 school year, a 5.8% increase over the current year. It is $168,000, or 2.1% over the FinCom's guideline 3.7% school budget increase. The School Committee is waiting to hear if the Selectmen and FinCom decide to fund the $168,000 within the regular budget appropriation, or if officials will ask voters to fund the amount through an override.
Heating system replacement
The school committee voted to put out a request for proposals for design of a new heating system for the school. The school now has two gas boilers, one that is partially functioning while the other boiler carries most of the heating load for the school. Engineering firm RDK gave a preliminary estimate of $352,000 to replace the system, with another $35,000 for new pumps, lighting, and painting.
RDK recommends the school replace the current boilers with four high-efficiency boilers, said School Business Manager Steve Moore. "With four boilers, the heating load will be balanced," explained School Committee member Wendell Sykes.
The engineering firm will prepare a new cost estimate that should be ready for Town Meeting, according to Moore. The new heating system will be a separate request by the school at Town Meeting.
Wastewater plant online in April
Construction of the school wastewater treatment plant on the Banta-Davis site off Bedford Road is now complete. A clear water test is scheduled for April 14 when water will be run from the school down to the treatment plant for the first time.
After that the school expects to receive approval of the system by the state Department of Environmental Protection, with the plant due to be fully operating by May 1. The school is now negotiating a contract with an outside firm licensed to operate the plant and hopes to have a maintenance contract signed by next week.
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