Durango middle schools to lose courses

Consumer and family-science classes at mercy of budget woes, no teachers

Consumer and family-science classes at both of Durango’s middle schools remain on the chopping block after the Durango School District 9-R board meeting Monday night.

The board heard from parents, teachers, both middle school principals and the district’s director of curriculum as it considered whether to take action on the district’s current decision to not rehire positions in consumer and family science after both current teachers retire in June.

Because the board did not take any action, the district will go ahead with its decision.

Seven women, including two Escalante Middle School teachers and one Escalante sixth-grader, voiced their support for classes such as sewing, healthy lifestyles and fiscal health.

“It is convenient not to replace those teachers and programs, but is it the right thing to do for kids?” asked Sharron Orr, a language arts and gardening teacher at Escalante. “Money can be found, like it was found for Expeditionary Learning and International Baccalaureate.”

Expeditionary Learning and International Baccalaureate are nationally and internationally recognized programs that lay out specific approaches to teaching and learning. Next year, Escalante will adopt Expeditionary Learning and Miller will adopt International Baccalaureate.

Miller Middle School Principal Tam Smith and Escalante Principal Tim Arnold outlined the financial, staffing and enrollment situations that led to the consumer and family-science cuts.

Declining enrollment has forced staffing reductions at Miller, Smith said. At Escalante, Arnold said he would be forced to cut other programs such as orchestra or career and technical education if he were to rehire a consumer and family science teacher.

Both principals emphasized that their decisions were not made easily.

Some of the topics covered in consumer and family science classes can be picked up by other classes, but other topics will not be, Smith said.

Some board members were concerned that the adoption of International Baccalaureate and Expeditionary Learning programs may have taken funding or staffing away from programs such as consumer and family science. Board members Wendy Rice and Kristy Rodri urged the principals and district administrators to think creatively to try to save the classes or bring them back after next year.

The board grappled with its role in directing administrators how to do their jobs.

“Our job is not to micromanage your curriculum,” board member Joe Colgan said. “We can do anything we want but not everything. It’s pretty obvious we don’t have resources to do all that we’d like to do.”

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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