Richland schools working on enrichment activities

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMarch 24, 2014 

Richland elementary students who test high in math or language arts could have access to more after-school and classroom-based activities beginning this fall.

The Richland School Board heard details Monday about what district administrators plan to offer high-achieving students to comply with changes in state law.

The board didn't take any action and administrators still are working on how activities will be implemented at each school.

Programs likely will be different building to building and classroom to classroom, said Assistant Superintendent Mike Hansen.

"They're going to have to have that flexibility built in to address student needs each year," he said.

Most districts offer some additional programs and services to elementary students who score high on math and language arts tests. However, districts must offer enrichment services to a broader group of students in all grades beginning next year. That includes more than 200 Richland elementary school students.

Some parents have criticized the district for not moving more quickly to expand its Highly Capable, or Hi-Cap, program so more families with high achieving elementary students can prepare for the next school year.

Cassidi Gaul, who has two elementary school-age students, said she knew parents were considering sending their children to private school or home-schooling so they could plan for next year.

"I love the Hi-Cap program but I can't make a decision until I know what it looks like," she told the board at a recent meeting.

Richland will continue to maintain its magnet gifted program at Lewis & Clark Elementary School next year and about 20 students recently have been sent invitations to enroll in the fall, Hansen said. There will also be plenty of options for middle and high school students, as it's easy to schedule a student into individual advanced or gifted classes.

Providing similar services to high-achieving elementary students in general classrooms throughout the district is more difficult, Hansen said.

Students can be taken out for a short time for extra attention but some teachers find that disruptive to the rest of the classroom, he said. Not all students can participate in after-school activities because they may have other commitments, such as sports.

That led administrators to develop a slew of options, Hansen said.

After-school programs could be offered year-round so students who play sports in one season could still have access at other times. Classroom-based ideas could include compacting the curriculum and providing alternative and enrichment activities.

Details still need to be worked out at each building and then in each classroom with high-achieving students.

But Hansen said it needs to be clear that what is offered in each elementary school will not be the same as the stand-alone program at Lewis & Clark.

"It's not a matter of curriculum, it's a matter of instruction," he said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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