Craig Middle School drops home ec class

Parents say they fear other elective classes may be next

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Two weeks ago when students brought home elective class sign-up sheets for next year for Craig Middle School, a few parents were surprised when no home economics classes were listed.

Cooking and sewing classes were not listed because the position left vacant by the retirement of home economics teacher Marcia Poirer at the end of the year will not be filled.

The news that no home economics classes will be offered at CMS has a few parents concerned and asking why.

"I was very disappointed and rather upset that these classes were out," said parent Jeanne Maneotis. "I have a seventh-grade daughter who was looking forward to taking them next year."

The news came as a surprise to Maneotis.

"There was no warning and no questions asked," she said. "I know they were caught in a position where they had to make a decision fast, but I think they should have surveyed the kids. That would have been the fair thing to do."

Mary Pressley, who has a seventh-grade daughter at CMS, said she was also surprised.

"I was shocked when I saw the list of electives," she said. "To me it seems to cut out a major, time honored program there should have been more input."

Pressley said home economics is important.

"You can make a case that home ec is more important than it ever has been," she said. "I think being able to learn some of the basics is a foundation of our society. It scares me to think that kids who don't have parents to cook for them won't have an opportunity to learn."

Maneotis said school officials told her she that the classes were being cut in order to focus more on science and math.

"They are more concerned with science and math," she said. "I think the CSAP tests have put a lot more stress on teachers, students and the entire district."

CSAP, the Colorado Student Assessment Program, is administered through annual, standardized tests used in grading schools statewide.

Legislators have proposed that state education funds be dependent on how schools perform against CSAP tests.

CMS Principal Steve Wiersma, said the changes were made to address achievement in core areas.

"I don't feel threatened by CSAP testing," Wiersma said. "I have faith in my staff and students. But I feel our biggest responsibility is to make sure students can read, write and communicate and prepare them for later in life."

With the retirement of Poirer, Wiersma said he had an opportunity to make changes to improve student achievement in reading, math and science.

"The primary reason for doing this, I feel, is there's a need to address achievement in core curriculum areas by reallocating our resources. I think it is my job to do that."

Wiersma said the change fits into the goals of the school.

"Our staff has been discussing changes for some time," he said. "Perhaps not in this specific area but in the areas of addressing our goal of improving student achievement."

But Pressley said skills learned in home economics are important.

"Home economics is a corner stone of families and society," she said. "I'm not talking about teaching them how to fold a napkin. I'm talking about the basics of nutrition and how to raise a healthy family."

Poirer agreed that students were losing an opportunity to gain valuable skills.

"I believed so firmly in the importance of this curriculum that I never dreamed they would drop it," she said. "Parents and other teachers see the need for this program and are very concerned about how many students' needs will not be met by dropping it."

Wanting to better educate students in science and math would be a reason to keep the classes, she said.

"I believe that classes like culinary arts and clothing design enhance math and science skills," she said. "They have to actually apply science when they are making some of these goods."

The program will be missed, she said.

"I see a real need for this program," she said. "It's a major link between school and home. It not only helps them in their careers but teaches them hobbies they will have the rest of their lives."

Although the classes will still be offered in high school, Maneotis thought it was important to offer these subjects to students in middle school.

"In middle school everything is introductory," she said. "There's no stress and they can try things and continue on in high school if they want."

The CSAP testing is adding to that stress, she said.

"I understand the importance of math and science but there are some kids that aren't going to have computer jobs," she said. "That's why you offer them these other classes so they can find a niche. The new CSAP testing is just so high stress."

Poirer is concerned that other elective classes will soon follow.

"Home economics, industrial arts and art are all enrichment classes," she said. "We all support the core classes but these elective classes are important. I just don't want to the be first domino to fall."

Wiersma said the decision to remove home economics fits into the school's goal.

"Sometimes the opportunity comes up to make a change and I have to base my decision on the general direction the school is trying to take," he said.

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