By Nona Tepper
The River Forest District 90 school board voted unanimously to hold off on implementing a new schedule at Roosevelt Middle School at a regular meeting on March 5, in response to resident criticism over D90's method of communicating the change, the proposed schedule, and recent changes to the school's instructional philosophy.
"It does underscore the degree to which our parents and community members support and are interested and invested in the effective functions in our schools," said Superintendent Ed Condon. "It is genuinely a wonderful situation that a community would engage around classroom pedagogy and instruction, that these would be the areas of focus. What a positive and healthy dialogue."
Originally, D90 planned to implement a new block schedule at Roosevelt Middle School by next school year, with an initial proposal restructuring students' days into four, 80-minute learning blocks so as to increase learning time for math, integrate reading and writing curriculum, increase subject rigor and more. Students currently have eight, 40-minute classes daily. The initial proposal decreased students' foreign language and fine arts time.
Parents started a petition — named "Retain foreign languages at Roosevelt: delay the block schedule vote" — against the proposal after the district held two public meetings on the matter earlier this year. More than 180 residents signed the petition, which was created by school board candidate Matt Heffner.
"The petition, I think, really underscored the depth of feeling that those family members feel about the role that foreign language plays in their children's education," Condon said.
After the board meeting on March 5, Heffner posted on social media to update parents on the delayed change.
"Essentially, everything requested in the petition was granted," Heffner wrote. "Thanks to all who signed and made comments. While we can't know how large a role it played, I think it's safe to say it played some role in the decision."
According to the district's implementation plan, the delay was inspired in response to concerns shared by faculty over a need for additional professional development and "the desire of numerous community members for further modifications to the proposed schedule." The district had originally planned to implement the proposed block schedule next school year, after four years of study, training and refinement of the current plan. Now the board aims to create a new schedule by fall 2020.
"We're looking forward to the opportunity to put a closer look to the proposed schedule revisions to ensure they are as optimal as possible," Condon said. "We realize we have the chance to do this once and we believe it's more important to do properly than quickly."
This article has been updated to reflect that Matt Heffner is a candidate for the D90 school board.
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