Oakland Middle School students to take geometry at Lange

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 | 5:31 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – Christi Walsh didn't know her eighth-grader wouldn't have a math teacher this year.

"I just thought it was a scheduling error," Walsh said.

When she saw her son's class schedule in August, Walsh called the school to see why his geometry class didn't have an assigned teacher. That's when she learned her son and his four classmates would be using laptops to take their class without a math teacher's supervision in the library at Oakland Middle School.

On Monday evening, Walsh and two other parents, Roger and Beth Asbury, voiced their concerns during a public comment portion of the Columbia School Board meeting.

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher decided Tuesday morning that the district would shuttle the five Oakland students taking geometry to Lange Middle School for their second-period math class.

"Our children are eighth-graders. They are in middle school. Math is part of their core curriculum," Walsh said in an interview shortly before the district said it would shuttle the students. "They need a teacher, not only to build a relationship with, but to provide support when they're in need of assistance."

The district's decision follows weeks of parental investigation into the problem. Oakland does not have enough math teachers to teach the geometry classes offered by the district to high-performing math students, Walsh said. The other middle schools have teachers for those students, she said.

Columbia Public Schools began the academic year Aug. 14. Walsh's son and his classmates were given the option to watch a video feed of the geometry classroom at Lange, but Internet connectivity and lack of one-on-one interaction quickly made online work difficult.

When the students took their first online test, three of the five students earned scores lower than 60 percent, Walsh said. Parents decided it was time to take action.

At the board meeting, Walsh and the Asburys outlined their experiences contacting board members and school administrators as well as the toll the online math class was taking on their children's education.

District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the decision to shuttle the students was made Tuesday morning after reviewing the parents' concerns. She said in an email that the Oakland principal will work out the details with the parents. 

When told about the decision, Walsh was so happy she laughed. "I'm very happy to hear that parent involvement was able to raise such an important concern and the district was able to respond," she said. "I think it is a much better solution to meet the students' needs now and in the future."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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