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Butte Central schools students gather for mass

Butte Central Catholic Schools students gather at St. Ann's Catholic Church for an all-schools mass in this April file photo.

After a month of summer vacation and roughly two months before the 2019-20 school year begins, Butte Central Catholic Schools announced a new curriculum and teaching plan for its K-8 students.

These improvements and new emphases aim to address the growth Butte Central elementary and middle school grade levels have seen in recent years and to ensure that every students’ educational needs are met.

“Our parents have expressed concerns about our growth because it’s created larger classrooms,” said Don Peoples Jr., director of Butte Central Catholic Schools. “This is our response to the growth challenges and our parents’ concerns … it will allow us to continue to grow but also maintain low student- to-teacher ratios.”

On Monday night in the Cote Family Lobby and Reception Area of the Maroon Activities Center, Peoples unveiled planned changes for the 2019-2020 school year to a group of about 50 parents, teachers and Central students.

“We’re really proud of our schools and feel we have the best schools in Butte,” Peoples said to the group. “We developed this plan to make our great schools into even greater schools.”

First, Peoples talked about the new curriculum that will be implemented at the K-8 grade levels, including a new K-3 phonics program; a new 6-8 grade English and language arts program with English/grammar, literature/reading and writing courses; a new accelerated math program for 5-8 grades; and a new 6-8 grade science program, along with a STEM lab for all grade levels to use.

“It’s not that we’re not doing a great job already, but I think this emphasis will be great for our kids,” Peoples said of the new curriculum changes, namely the increase in accelerated programs.

But perhaps the biggest change Peoples and the administrative staff announced Monday night is the shift to a team teaching strategy for the K-5 grade levels.

Peoples explained that team teaching allows two teachers to collaborate within one classroom to help maintain personal connections with students and provide a dynamic learning environment.

Team teaching can play out as two teachers co-lecturing one class, one teacher lecturing and the other observing, or both teachers working with smaller groups of students in a station setting, Peoples explained.

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To implement this new team teaching approach, Butte Central Catholic Schools hired five new staff members who will collaborate with the K-5 teachers this fall, including a full-time Cote Resource Program teacher to work with students who have special needs.

“These are not teacher’s aides, they are highly qualified teachers,” Peoples said. “They will help create a dynamic, outstanding teaching experience.”

According to Butte Central Catholic Schools’ data, about 15 to 20 students are projected to be enrolled in the kindergarten class by July 1, and between 22 and 28 students for the rest of the 1-5 grade levels.

Peoples said the new team teachers haven’t been assigned grade levels yet, but did say that current Butte Central High School Vice Principal Paul Richardson will transition to become the assistant principal at the elementary and middle school with a main focus on overseeing and implementing the new team teaching approach.

Richardson will still work as an administrator at the high school, but will spend the bulk of his time at the elementary and middle school, Peoples explained.

“This will be really cool for me,” Richardson said to the group Monday night. “One thing I’ve learned as an administrator is the most important task is supporting teachers, and I’m so excited to do that.”

But with all of the new change Butte Central Catholic Schools plan to implement this coming school year comes new funding challenges, Peoples emphasized to the crowd.

Peoples said the Catholic schools have received generous donations to support some of the changes, but are determined to meet these additional costs with increased fundraising efforts, not by increased tuition costs.

Overall, Peoples said he feels these are exciting changes for Central families and thanked them for being so invested in their children’s futures.

“We’re very, very excited about what we have planned,” Peoples said. “We’re ready for growth, our classrooms are ready to expand … we want our kids to be in the best learning setting that helps them reach their highest potential.”

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