By ERIN ROLL
Glenfield Middle School is hoping to move to a new schedule format, in an effort to increase academic instruction and physical education time, but keeping the school’s performing arts curriculum intact.
Glenfield is the only one of Montclair’s three middle schools that does not currently operate on a block schedule. Glenfield’s school day, which runs from 7:50 a.m. to 2:05 p.m., has nine 42-minute periods. Buzz Aldrin operates on 80-minute blocks, while Renaissance operates on a combination of 40 and 60-minute blocks. Montclair High School switched to a four-day rotating block schedule for the 2019-2020 school year.
In June, the announcement that Glenfield was investigating a schedule change generated mass concern from parents and students, especially due to what the schedule change would mean for Glenfield’s performing arts program. District officials said the school’s existing schedule does not meet the state requirements for instructional time in math and language arts, or to get 150 minutes of physical education time each week.
Parents were concerned that the change could hurt Glenfield as the designated performing arts magnet school.
The performing arts magnet will be preserved, Glenfield Principal Erika Pierce said.
“That’s what makes us special, and that’s what we do,” Pierce added.
At the Nov. 18 Board of Education meeting, Pierce gave a short presentation on the review process. A committee consisting of faculty and administrators at the school has been going over six possible schedule models and how to implement them.
There are four goals: more instruction time in language arts and math, ensure the visual and performing arts magnet is preserved, keep the school day within its current length, and make sure students have 150 minutes of physical education each week.
A presentation to board members, parents, PTA members and other members of the community will be held at a later date in January.
Pierce said if a schedule was decided, it would be in place in time for the new school year in September.
“However, if we don’t find something that works for us, we’re going to scrap it and start all over again,” she said. “There’s a difference between doing things fast and doing things well.”
Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker said he watched a video of the June 18 BOE meeting where the Glenfield schedule change was discussed, and he acknowledged that the Glenfield schedule discussion was one of the “pain points” for the district.
Last year, parents and students raised concerns that there would be no room in the regular school day for visual and performing arts courses if Glenfield switched to a block schedule. There were fears that performing arts classes would end up becoming electives rather than a central part of the school curriculum. Others noted that students who did not have extensive financial means relied on the school to have access to arts classes.
The district, in response to parents’ concerns, presented a proposed four-block schedule of 80-minute classes, in which students could continue to take performing arts classes, and which would have time for special electives as well. For this school year, however, the school continued with the nine-period schedule format. The timing of the schedule discussion raised concerns as well, since then-principal Cheryl Hopper was preparing to step down at the time.