High grades for middle school

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuser pays a visit to Chambersburg Area Middle School, a national Blue Ribbon School

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuser pays a visit to Chambersburg Area Middle School, a national Blue Ribbon School

September 18, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The din in the cafeteria at Chambersburg Area Middle School rose considerably Tuesday morning when U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster walked in.

Students knew the man in the suit must be someone important to have television cameras and newspaper photographers trailing behind him.

"They were all asking who I was," Shuster said, laughing about it afterward. "One asked if I was governor."

The Republican 9th District representative went back to school this week, touring Chambersburg Area Middle School and the Waynesboro YMCA on Tuesday, in addition to other stops in the district.


Shuster spent more than an hour touring Chambersburg Area Middle School, a national Blue Ribbon School, in order to get first-hand knowledge of what is going on in Pennsylvania's schools.

"This is where communities are built," he said. "I don't want the federal government to be in charge of education. Let states and local people decide how to spend money in Chambersburg and Franklin County."

Shuster said he didn't believe there is a "one size fits all prescription" for the nation's schools.

"Every district is different," Principal Barry Purvis said. "Our building is cramped. We could use funds to expand, but we're okay with technology."

From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. - about six hours shorter than the typical school day - Shuster soaked up details on how the middle school fits in the Chambersburg school district's structure and what its strengths are.

He asked Purvis questions about the school's flexible scheduling, which breaks the sixth- and seventh-graders into teams and leaves scheduling up to the teachers.

"There are no bells. The teachers move their students when they want," Purvis said.

He said teams hold planning meetings daily to determine how much time each teacher needs for their lessons.

"They have to meet the needs of the lesson plan by the end of the year, but how they get there is up to them," Purvis said.

He said teachers and students embraced flexible scheduling four years ago, and it has curbed problems that can occur in the halls when all students change classes at once.

"There was a change in climate," Purvis said.

The success of flexible scheduling was one reason the middle school earned Blue Ribbon status at the state level last fall. Educators named it one of 18 of the best in Pennsylvania, and this spring, after a visit from a national panel, the middle school was recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a top-notch school.

"This seems like a well-run, happy place," Shuster said. "It feels like what you want a school to feel like - clean, safe and productive."

Shuster said when he shook hands with a dozen students in the cafeteria, he asked how they like school and if they had complaints.

"Surprisingly, they had nothing negative to say," said Shuster, who has children in fifth and eighth grades.

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