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Sunnyside changes 5th-grade programs


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Sunnyside Intermediate School is in the middle of switching half of its teaching for fifth-grade students to mirror the style in a middle-school setting.

"We're departmentalizing next year with three teachers," Sunnyside Principal Brian Barrows said Thursday during a workshop meeting of the Havre School Board to discuss next year's budget in response to a question from Board Chair Lee Christianson.

Barrows said the reason a science supply line item was increased was because one of three teachers will teach three sections of science, leading him to believe the needs for science supplies will increase. Another teacher will teach three sections of mathematics with another teaching three sections of social studies.

"They're actually going to trade kids," he said.

About half of the fifth-graders at Sunnyside requested to rotate through those classes, along with physical education and music classes as well as their home room, which will be taught by one of three departmentalized teachers.

The rest of the fifth-graders will stay in a more traditional fifth-grade setting, spending the day, aside from PE and music, with one of the three other fifth-grade teachers.

Barrows said the program will allow students to experience the middleschool style of education a year earlier, which may allow for an easier transition.

It also allows the teachers to focus on their specialty, he added.

"It's their strongest, probably strongest teaching area, that they really enjoy," Barrows said.

Middle School Principal Dustin Kraske said it could give the students a very good preview of middle school.

"It will be a little more similar than you would think," he said.

Barrows said the school is doing the change in a trial program.

"We want to try it for at least three years," he said, adding, "We also did some research on it before we proposed it." Interim Superintendent Andy Carlson said Barrows sent letters out to the parents of every fourth-grade student to let them know the plan to switch into departmentalized teaching style.

"Every fourth-grade parent was very aware of what was happening," he said.

Barrows said he sent two letters, with the first asking the families what they thought of the idea.

About half of the families responded, with slightly more than half the responses indicating the families liked the idea, he said.

The second letter asked the families which style of education they wanted their children in. About half wanted to try the departmentalized format, he said.


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