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Bermudian discusses transparency; approves 2022-23 curriculum guide

The Bermudian Springs school board discussed the process of reviewing and revising curricula at their Monday meeting after one board member raised concerns.

The board unanimously approved the 2022-23 curriculum guide, but only after a discussion about the curricula.

Board member Jennifer Goldhahn originally said she wanted to table the issue of approving the guide.

Dr. Shannon Myers, the district’s assistant superintendent, said the approval of the guide would not determine what was in the courses themselves as the curricula for those courses had already been approved separately.

Goldhahn requested that parents have more access to students’ assignments through Canvas.

Myers cautioned that adding the assignments students would have ahead of time might cause difficulty, likening it to a student getting an early look at a test. She also said assignments can sometimes vary depending on the student. Myers said parents with questions about a course should be able to view the class syllabus and bring questions or concerns to the child’s teacher.

Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss encouraged parents to use information already available to them.

“… Ask your student to open up Canvas right next to you and show you what they’re looking at,” Hotchkiss said. “Everybody has that ability. Every student does. Everybody has an iPad. To me as a parent, this would be great. Sit down with the kids and say, ‘Show me what’s happening here.’ Everybody has that ability. I know kids may hesitate.”

Hotchkiss noted the district had only begun using a learning management system in the past three years and that while a significant amount of progress has been achieved, further professional development will help the district learn more about utilizing Canvas.

Goldhahn said she would vote to approve the curriculum guide if the district would work on improving transparency regarding its curricula.

There are multiple avenues for parents to learn more about their children’s classes, according to Hotchkiss and Myers. If a course worries a parent, they can seek more information.

“That’s when you can reach out to your guidance counselor,” Hotchkiss said. “You can start having those conversations about courses. If you want to get more, then you go through those processes.”

Goldhahn asked what the board can do to change curricula parents might find problematic.

There isn’t a quick or easy solution.

“It is impossible for a school district of our size to just revamp all curriculum and sit down and say we’re going to look at every single area,” Myers said. “We have to prioritize. I can’t say that we’re going to do ELA, math, science and social studies all in one year. It might be that next year, we decide to really focus on ELA and that is the content area that we’re going to audit. We’re going to cycle through and determine what the needs are, what adjustments need made, and then we’ll cycle through to math. And then we get on a continuous cycle, which is just not something we’ve had with the disruptions the last couple of years.”

If there are several people voicing the concerns about the same topic, that area might be pushed forward more quickly for discussion, according to Myers.

Myers and Goldhahn did appear to agree that parents can have access to syllabi and reading lists to give them a better idea of the course content their student is learning.

During the time for public comment, three individuals voiced concerns about the district’s curriculum and books, echoing worries Goldhahn had expressed during the board’s caucus meeting on Monday evening. One person said he learned existentialism will be taught at the high school and acknowledged it as necessary while saying the board needed to make sure the curriculum was appropriate and the topic handled well.

Two others voiced concerns about material in the school library, saying books they find to be inappropriate should be kept out of the district.

There will be an open house at the new middle school from 2-4 p.m. Sunday.

The board approved a school calendar appointing Aug. 18 as the first student day of the 2022-23 school year. The last student day will be May 25, 2023.

The board also approved the birth of an Instagram account for the Berm Brew Coffee House. As of Wednesday night, no posts had yet been made, but the account was live and had 49 followers. Supporters can follow @bermbrewcoffeehouse on Instagram.

The board’s next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 8 in the high school auditorium. It will also be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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