The Council Rock School Board at its May 5 meeting, discussed implementation of a new elementary special weekly class. The initiative, overwhelmingly popular with members of the board, was eventually approved.
The new class would be called the “STEAM Special” (short for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) and would provide elementary students a roughly 45-minute block of instructional time once a week.
Currently, Council Rock has just four concrete specials: music, art, library, and physical education. In a rotating order depending on grade level, students have each of those classes once a week with one day off for a less structured computer special guided by their homeroom teacher. The district has pondered the idea of adding a STEAM special for some time.
“With this new program, students would be able to investigate a broad range of scientific subjects alongside their peers with the help of teachers to broaden their knowledge,” said Council Rock North junior Simona Avetyan of Newtown.
“But not only does STEAM open students to new topics, it also allows students to think both holistically and analytically.”
Newtown resident Wendy Nowicki, who also spoke in favor of STEAM, argued that nearby districts have had similar programs for years.
“Many surrounding districts including Central Bucks, Pennsbury and Bristol have all had STEAM-based programs for a number of years,” she said.
After several other agenda items were addressed, the board expressed widespread support. They also reviewed several potential concerns, including the cost to implement the plan (about 0.5% of the district budget), the removal of the computer special, and by far the most addressed, Council Rock’s ongoing search for a new superintendent.
School board directors Mike Thorwart, Bob Hickey, and Michael Roosevelt all indicated that they would like to see the district’s new Superintendent have some input on the STEAM decision.
With board President Edward Salamon indicating that the superintendent interview process is now in its final stages, Thorwart and fellow School Board Director Yota Palli compromised.
Thorwart stated his intent to vote in favor of STEAM so as to approve its implementation for the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year with the caveat that it be “blessed” by the incoming superintendent. Palli agreed, and with widespread support on the board, the motion was unanimously approved.
Other topics discussed during the meeting included changes to the district’s middle school RA (Resource Activity) Period. The board proposed that RA, which allows students roughly 45 minutes of free time to study for tests, attend club meetings, and/or participate in music programs, be moved from the beginning of the day to the end. The motion ultimately passed unanimously.
The board also approved making fifth and sixth grade elementary choir optional instead of mandatory. After discussing some scheduling concerns regarding time being taken away from the English Language Arts block of the day, the board motion passed.
The proposed 2022/2023 Council Rock preliminary budget was addressed during the latter half of the meeting. Board members, including Hickey, Roosevelt, and Kristin Marcell, expressed concerns over the budget’s proposed tax increase of 2.4%.
After around an hour of question and answers with CRSD Director of Business Administration Jason Harris, the board ultimately approved the motion via a 7-2 vote to advance the budget to a final approval meeting which will occur within the next 30 days.
The board recognized Director of Operational Services Doug Taylor as he is set to move on at the conclusion of the school year. Members spoke glowingly of Taylor as he steps aside, having overseen renovation of seven of the District’s 10 elementary schools as well as both middle schools.