School Board plans to revisit Bible elective | CraigDailyPress.com

School Board plans to revisit Bible elective

Collin Smith

— Citing a petition signed by 866 Moffat County residents, and 116 Moffat County students, Phil Bethell does not accept altering a proposed Bible in History class.

And he told the Moffat County School District Board of Education exactly that in front of a fully supportive, standing-room only crowd at Thursday’s board meeting.

The board decided to revisit the issue more thoroughly at its January meeting.

“No other religion affects our history as Christianity does,” Bethell said. “In many instances, we are losing the young people of this nation.”

In January, Debra Powell proposed a Bible elective she says focuses on its impact in history and its use as literature. The proposed class uses a curriculum designed by the National Council for Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

In May, high school principal Jane Harmon made a written recommendation to the board suggesting a comparative religion class instead of one focusing exclusively on the Christian Bible.

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Harmon and high school faculty reviewed the suggested curriculum before making the recommendation, she said.

In July, the board decided, as suggested in Harmon’s recommendation, to follow the prescribed path of curriculum review and evaluate the elective during the normal social studies review period in the 2010-2011 school year.

That would make the class eligible for adoption in the 2011-2012 school year at the earliest.

Powell and Bethell addressed the board at Thursday’s meeting, saying waiting that long would be a further detriment to Moffat County’s youths and changing the curriculum would go against a petition signed by nearly 1,000 people.

“I find it ironic that at the same time the School Board is asking the community and the parents for $29.5 million, the community and the parents are also asking for an elective course to be taught,” Bethell said. “(This is) why we have community oversight through the community representatives on the board.”

The School Board was not of one mind on the issue. Steve Hafey, board vice-president, lobbied the other members to change the board’s recommendation from saying “comparative literature” to “Bible in history.”

“This is a strong message from our community,” Hafey said. “A class on comparative religion does not meet the need of what was asked for.”

No board member, including Hafey, wanted to subvert the normal evaluation process, though Hafey did comment waiting until 2010 would be too long for a “today issue.”

Superintendent Pete Berg-

mann attempted to put the debate into perspective. The question of whether a course on one religion or multiple religions had not been addressed by the board.

That is what the review process is for, Bergmann said.

The board decided there was enough public demand to revisit the issue before a 2010 review process.

Board president Jo Ann Baxter explained the board would be unable to give the decision its due consideration in November, when voters decide on a School District bond question, or in December, when the holidays would take a little of everyone’s time.

The board will discuss the issue again in January, and address the curriculum review process in particular.