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Schools look to tailor curriculum

Photo by Janelle Patterson Middle school students play outside during a break in school.

Marietta City Schools’ upper elementary and early schooling curriculum will be adapting to meet the needs of students as the district consolidates from six academic buildings to four in the next school year.

The district will have the opportunity to reach students who are excelling and struggling with STEM, Talented and Gifted, summer school options and a change of curriculum.

Tim Fleming, current assistant principal at Marietta High School and future director of curriculum and technology at MCS, said the biggest changes to the district’s curriculum will be in math and social studies.

“Since about mid to late January, I’ve been working with a couple different publishing companies to set up virtual curriculum for teachers,” Fleming said.

“But now I’m meeting with just the math teams and talking about preferences, pros and cons of the programs. And that will set the tone for how we go. A lot of it will be shoring up and being consistent.”

The condensed secondary campus for grades 7-12 will give students a better chance to learn, said Fleming.

“All our experts will be in one location. That collaboration will be huge,” he said. “Teacher-based teams will meet more regularly. I think it will be great for teachers to observe more teachers and be able to share that with others. The communication will be key.”

The Talented and Gifted program services K-10 and has a current enrollment of 250 students. Elementary school students are placed into cluster groups based on their identified area (math, science, etc.) Seventh and eighth grade students are put into honors courses, and students in eighth grade can also receive high school credits.

Lindsey Bills, TAG coordinator in the district, said they are hoping to provide more services than they have in the past.

“Currently, we have to make some adjustments with our teachers that will be serving our students because the state requires them to have a set amount of contact hours per academic school year,” Bills said. “So that could alter some of our placements for next year. But we’re hoping to continue with what we’re doing now.”

Pierson Stengle, an eighth grade student, said his favorite TAG classes are early engineering which later gets students ready for introduction to engineering classes.

“We do a lot of fun projects. We 3D print stuff so that’s really fun,” Stengle said.

The TAG program is important for the lessons it will teach new students, said Dania Atwat, an eighth grade student at Marietta Middle School.

“They provide a challenge and really push you to do your best,” Atwat said.

Alex Funes, a seventh grade student, said upcoming students should get involved with the TAG program.

“If you try your best in accelerated classes, it will help you in your coming years,” Funes said.

Fleming said he is excited to give older students the ability to earn high school credits.

“We will be able to offer high school classes at an earlier age, and there are opportunities for the Washington County Career Center and Washington State Community College,” Fleming said. “Giving them that vision at an early age is very important.”

Bills said one of their goals next year is to have makerspaces in the K-2 buildings where students can have hands-on learning. STEM bins will contain materials to create a product. Then, depending on the teacher, the bins could contain a variety of materials ranging from solar rovers to robotics.

For struggling students, two different summer school sessions will be offered, the first three weeks of summer and the three weeks before school begins.

“We are pretty excited to give that experience to our students,” said Fleming.

The district will be looking at data from previous years so it can tailor the curriculum to students’ needs.

“School has looked different this year. We will have a very clear picture of where we need to go,” Fleming said. “We can’t really set anything in stone until we see how the results look.”

Present middle schoolers will also have to adapt to a high school environment, and the current middle school is doing all it can to provide a good transition.

“We’ll be having live talks with students and parents to answer their questions. Tiger TV has sent out programs about course offerings. I think that has been very positive to get some of our upperclassmen involved.”

The consolidation will create a sense of community in the district, said Fleming.

“The most exciting thing for me is being able to come together,” Fleming said. “We have all these students coming together that would never be before. Teachers coming together that wouldn’t be before. There is an opportunity to build culture. Being able to work with new people. It’s always about working towards making things better.”

Kyle Nichols may be reached at knichols@newsandsentinel.com

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