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School board opposes Amendment 31

All but one Roaring Fork School District board member voted at the regular school board meeting Wednesday evening to approve a resolution opposing Amendment 31. The statewide ballot question calls for all children to be taught using only the English language in public school classrooms.Board member Bruce Matherly cast the one dissenting vote, based on concerns about civil rights issues, costs for bi-lingual education and the effectiveness of immersion learning. Other board members, however, were troubled over the control the amendment would give the state over local issues. “Curricular decisions should not be mandated by the state constitution,” said school board member Trsi Houpt. “This amendment takes away the school board’s ability to review each of our educational programs. What is the best way to educate second-language learners? That needs to be determined at the local level.”Assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall also raised the question of whether immersion learning – that is, putting second-language students in the same classroom with English-speaking students – will leave some students behind.”It’s sink or swim,” she said.Board members also worry the amendment opens the door for lawsuits to be brought against teachers, administrators and school board members, making school officials personally liable for causing educational harm to a child. Houpt and board member Sue Hakanson attended the annual Colorado Association of School Boards delegate assembly in Denver earlier this month and reported the organization also took a firm stand against the amendment.In other business, Haptonstall reported on a bully-proofing program the district is implementing. Through the end of October, fourth- and fifth-grade students are attending assemblies focused on the issue.Younger students will attend similar assemblies in the spring, and high school officials will meet to discuss modifying the program for older students. Beginning this school year, all Roaring Fork School District elementary schools have switched from letter grading to standards-based grading. Haptonstall reported that she’s met with parents to guide them through the new reporting system. “People have been very receptive,” Haptonstall said. “Parents are already asking, `How soon can this grading go to the middle schools?'” The board discussed how to move this system to the middle school level, and ultimately to district high schools, and resolved to keep a step ahead of the process.During the meeting, the Roaring Fork School District’s accountability committee met with board members to discuss bringing teachers and school officials together during the 2002-03 year.The committee has organized six joint meetings held throughout the year at various schools in the district. Each meeting will focus on the district’s elementary, middle or high schools, and will include committee members from the host school, as well as staff from district schools on a particular level. The meetings will allow staff to share work being done throughout the district.”This opens up communication between communities,” said district superintendent Fred Wall. At Wednesday’s meeting the board also:-Reviewed a meeting on Tuesday with Basalt Town Trustees regarding the Basalt Affordable Housing Project, which involves building school staff housing on district property behind Basalt High School. -Discussed with Basalt Recreation representatives the status of the sports fields being constructed near Basalt High School. -Reviewed a report submitted by Fred Wall regarding student class sizes in grades kindergarten through eighth-grade, which currently range from 11 to 28 students districtwide.-Received a board presentation schedule to parent organizations regarding an upcoming ballot initiative eliminating term limits for school board members. The next Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at the District Office, 1405 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs.


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