Sunday, May 19, 2002

Plans include teams, services

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Public Schools plans to build new teaching practices and expanded community services right into the floor plans of new and renovated schools.

        As part of the district's proposed $1 billion construction plan, over the next decade 35 new schools and 31 renovated schools would be designed to support team-teaching.

        Nearly every elementary classroom, as well as ninth- and 10th-grade rooms, would be arranged in pods where three to four rooms are connected by a central learn ing area.

        Although the classrooms would be linked, they would be divided by walls so teachers could work alone with their classes when desired.

        The model also is structured so teachers could meet in the central learning area to tag-team on lessons or to pull out groups of students who need special attention.

        A group of teachers making up a pod would stay with the same students for several years. For example, students in grades 4-6 would have the same group of teachers for three years.

        “(The concept) breaks down the isolation and allows the physical environment to enhance the interaction of teachers,” says Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

        Some parents and teachers have questioned whether it's smart to build schools that must last decades around what could be a fad. In community meetings in January and February, some asked whether the new classroom design could become outdated, much as “open” classrooms of the 1970s did.

        Associate Superintendent Kathleen Ware defends the design, saying teachers weren't prepared for the classrooms without walls that popped up in the 1970s.

        “Nobody was trained to do anything different (in them),” she says.

        That's not the case with the model being built into the new and renovated schools, she says. District teachers have been learning and using the team-teaching model since 1995.

        New and renovated schools also would be built for community use so they could remain open day and night, on weekends and through the summer.


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