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updated: 4/19/2012 6:18 PM

Lombard parents want curriculum changes explained

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A group of Westlake Middle School parents is requesting a meeting with Lombard Elementary District 44 administrators to discuss curriculum changes to be implemented next year, including the removal of general music classes from the humanities program.

The parents, many of whom have children who participate in choir, say they are unhappy general music no longer will be an option. They also say they fear the choir program won't be the same without the current teacher, whose position is one of two being eliminated as part of the curriculum changes.

"We're saddened that we're losing this mentor to our kids, a stellar music teacher and that we're losing all of the music classes," parent Scott Jenkins said. "Although we're being told the choir program is going to remain the same, we just can't imagine how this will happen with the loss of the current choir instructor. There are many unknowns."

Parent Wendy Peca read a letter to the school board Tuesday night requesting reinstatement of general music classes and a meeting with district administration and the curriculum committee.

"Dialogue needs to continue, not just about this, but about all significant changes," Peca said.

Maura Zinni, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the district is taking Peca's requests seriously and always appreciates parent input. She said many music options still will exist next year at Westlake.

"The term 'music' kept being used, that 'music was being eliminated,'" Zinni said. "But music is not being eliminated at the middle school."

Band and orchestra will continue during the school day, while chorus will continue to be offered as an extracurricular program.

The district explained the curriculum changes in a letter sent to parents April 10.

Written by Westlake Principal Phil Wieczorek, the letter said algebra will be extended to a two-year course and the number of spots available in Spanish and French classes will double.

Students who qualify based on grades, standardized test scores, teacher recommendations and other factors will be offered the chance to begin taking foreign language in sixth or seventh grade, completing the equivalent of one or two high school courses.

"Students are sitting in a very good position, especially if they want to be bilingual or trilingual," Zinni said.

Credit for one or both foreign language levels students complete in middle school will be recorded on their high school transcripts and can be considered to help meet college admittance requirements, Zinni said.

Because so many students will be taking a foreign language or getting extra help in math or literacy during the humanities period, Wieczorek's letter says reductions have to be made, including elimination of the general music class, the reduction of study skills to one section for sixth-graders and the combination of two technology courses into one.

A district-level curriculum committee of administrators, teachers from all grade levels and representatives from all seven schools planned the curriculum changes, which will go into effect next school year, Zinni said.

Such changes do not need school board approval, but Superintendent Jim Blanche said the board was kept aware of the changes and the administration's reasons for supporting them.

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