The deed is done: The St. Mary's County Board of Education voted last month to replace the classes formerly known as home economics and exploring engineering with a new seventh-grade computer course and a double period of reading.
But after the vote, one question wouldn't stop reverberating among the faculty members who teach the affected courses: What can we do?
The teachers consulted with one another and the result will be a public presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday at Chancellors Run Park. The teachers plan a program geared to parents and the community that will explain what students have learned in the classes that are now out of favor, and what they say will be lost when those courses are scaled back or no longer taught in middle school.
The program is being organized by the Education Association of St. Mary's County, the union that represents teachers and some managers.
"They feel the program they're teaching is very valuable, and they want the have their opportunity to say that," association President Wanda Twigg said of the faculty involved in the program.
All five family and consumer sciences teachers and several technology teachers will give short presentations and answer questions about what goes on in their classrooms. Twigg extended an invitation last week to Ken Smith, who supervises career and technology courses for the district, but he had a conflict with a school event and will not attend, school officials said.
Superintendent Patricia M. Richardson said the school district is not involved with the planning or the content of the presentations. Richardson encouraged any parents or residents with questions about the middle school curriculum changes to contact Deputy Superintendent R. Lorraine Fulton or individual principals, "and they can provide accurate and comprehensive information."
Under the revisions adopted by the school board, seventh-graders will take a course called information technology science, in which they will learn desktop publishing and how to put together multimedia presentations with software such as PowerPoint. In the old technology course, students built devices and studied engineering problems.
Richardson proposed the changes last year, but she withdrew the proposal without a school board vote when parents protested and teachers balked.
Tessa Lowe, who has a son in sixth grade and two other children in elementary school, said the school system acted too quickly on the changes -- discussing the proposal and voting on it at the same meeting. She said that procedure, rather than the usual two-meeting process, meant that the change was adopted without much parent input.
"If I had been informed, then I could have made an informed decision as to whether or not I agreed to this curriculum change or not," she said. "I wasn't given the opportunity."
Lowe said she would rather see programs to address reading problems in elementary school instead of waiting until middle school.
Richardson said she has heard from parents who agree with the change but felt they had been left out of the process. She said school officials could not delay the decision because students had to begin selecting courses for next year and principals needed time to complete the elaborate process of coming up with a master class schedule.