New Year, New Links, New Schedules
After a hiatus caused by a July storm, the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board reconvened on August 19 with a full slate, and a revamped agenda developed using the tools of Boarddocs.com, which compiles agendas, minutes, meeting highlights, and underlying reports. WSSD Superintendent Dr. Lisa Palmer introduced the technology, which includes “a very robust search engine” which she expects “parents and taxpayers [to be] pleased with.”
The district also added a page entitled “WSSD Sleep & School Start Times” which will track the district’s nascent study of that subject. Dr. Palmer emphasized that no decisions had been made regarding school start times, and invited the public to participate in the work of a task force and attend a regional panel discussion night. She promised frequent updates online and at board meetings, as well as a new email address dedicated to public input on the matter. The Board expects to hear recommendations from its task force in early 2020, allowing decisions and implementation of chosen plans for the 2020-21 school year.
Dr. Jennifer Gaudioso, director of Elementary Education, spoke on behalf of the elementary school principals about a new alignment across elementary school schedules, which is designed to make room for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and mental health supports, and minimize incidence of speech pullouts interfering with core instruction. By labelling blocks of core instruction and providing “Intervention Extension” blocks, staggered and aligned by grade level, elementary school administrators hope to provide longer uninterrupted blocks of core time and better SEL support, in turn freeing up the school counselor to offer more individualized services. Dr. Gaudioso added that individual schedules were based in part on the teacher’s judgment and that board members “could expect continued refinement.”
Dr. Kristopher Brown, principal of Strath Haven High School, gave a harrowing description of the rigors of high school scheduling. The outcome of the process was that overall class sizes remained similar to past years, with the exception of AB and BC calculus, in each of which class size rose to 30 students. When asked about possible sites for graduation in 2020 — a focus topic on the agenda of last month’s cancelled meeting — Dr. Brown said that by a slim margin, a parent survey had indicated a parent preference for the incumbent location Neumann University over King Field. However, he believes that King Field would be a viable option for future years, given a little more time to work out the details.
Finally, during the public comment section of the agenda, Joanne Cortese rose to ask for a change in the annual multiple occupancy requirement for multigenerational households. She described a yearly hassle involving paperwork and notaries, made necessary by her grandson’s having a last name which differs from her own.