While students of Greencastle Community Schools were off Friday, class was in session for the Greencastle School Board. The five members, along with Superintendent Dr. Lori Richmond and Assistant Superintendent Dawn Puckett, spent the day in a board retreat at the DePauw Nature Park Ian and Mimi Roland Welcome Center.
Influenced perhaps by the bucolic setting, or just a day of hard work, the board emerged with a few decisions that will affect the academic life of students from grades three through 12 in the 2012-13 academic year.
The biggest change in the fall 2012 will be for high ability students at Tzouanakis Intermediate School. Beginning in August, high ability students in all grades at the school -- third, fourth and fifth -- will be served in self-contained high ability classrooms.
Each of these classrooms will exist within the six-class cluster framework Tzouanakis has for its three grades, with approximately the same number of students as the other five classrooms.
"We won't have any trouble filling these classes," Pucket said. "We will be able to meet the needs of more kids."
Currently, there is no separate high ability class for third graders at Tzouanakis, with high-ability students served in the normal classroom setting.
The new plan is a change from the split fourth and fifth grade high ability class taught by Karen Hirt. Instead, approximately twice the number of kids will be served while not separating fourth graders from their classmates to go into the fifth grade cluster.
Some parents have questioned the wisdom of the split class model in the past, both because it brings together two grade levels and because it separates high ability students from their classmates.
With the new model, school administrators are eliminating the split class, while sticking by their guns on the need to serve high ability students with a classroom of their own.
"It really started with serving more students -- are we reaching all of them?" Richmond said of the motivation.
Puckett said Tzouanakis principal Jon Strube, entering his second year on the job, was a force behind the change.
"I think Mr. Strube came to it with a different perspective, coming from another district," Puckett said.
Teachers have not been chosen for the three high ability classes, but the process will begin immediately with the approval of the board in place.
The board also made some decisions for high ability students at the high school, approving a pair of additional Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Students will now have the chance to take AP Statistics and AP Physics at GHS.
AP courses allow students the chance to earn college credit through their scores on end-of-course tests.
All requirements are in place for the AP Statistics class, which will take the place of the probability and statistics class previously offered at the high school.
Physics is almost ready to go, but a high school math teacher is in the process of becoming certified to teach the course as an AP offering. Should a snag occur with the licensure, the standard physics class will be offered in 2012-13, with the AP class to take effect in subsequent years.
The board also approved a pair of middle school courses. GMS students will now be offered reading topics and information technology as part of their rotating course options.
Rotating courses are special topics GMS students take for only a portion of the year.
In other business:
* Richmond updated the board on capital projects on the agenda for the summer.
Chillers have been ordered at a cost of $180,480 for the middle school and $219,760 for the high school. The board approved these expenses at an earlier meeting.
The units will be delivered in about 12 weeks, meaning they should be installed just in time for the start of school in August.
Flooring will be replaced in half of the rooms of Tzouanakis, at a cost of $2,800 per room. The remainder of the floors will be updated either during winter and spring breaks or in the summer of 2013.
Painting will take place where needed in the interior of all school buildings.
A closer look will be taken at drainage problems at Tzouanakis.
Grass and turf problems at the soccer field will be examined.
* The board approved a number of personnel items, including the retirements of Teresa McKee as GHS business teacher and Marcia O'Hair as Tzouanakis secretary.
"Teresa McKee has been a longtime teacher -- I had her in class. Marcia O'Hair has been here a long time." board member Kelly Lewis said. "I want to thank them for their years of service."
Other personnel items included: one-year maternity leave for GHS teacher Khristen Phillips for 2012-13; Jessica Tarr hired as maternity leave coverage for Heather Cantonwine through year's end; resignation of Darrell Nichols as bus barn mechanic; and the hires of Jennifer Beck, Carol Clark, Andra Guyer, Brenda Green, Valarie Lenihan and Teona Byrd as summer bus cleaners.
The board also approved a service contract with new GHS Principal Jennifer Shepherd for up to 15 days during May and June for any time she might work before her official July 1 start date.