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Mechanicsburg Area School District administrators and staff proposed several secondary-level course and curriculum changes to the school board on Tuesday night that would take place in the 2019-20 school year.

The proposed changes are considered part of an ongoing district redesign that was initiated at the start of the 2018-19 school year. At the secondary level, this included pilots for flexible classroom seating and block scheduling, a new bell schedule, and alternate learning opportunities for high school seniors.

On Tuesday night, instrumental instructor LaShae Willits proposed dividing the high school orchestra into two levels next year to better serve the musical ability of each student. Currently, the high school’s sole orchestra is comprised of musicians in grades 9-12 who play at differing levels of proficiency.

“Currently, I have to teach at a middle-of-the-road (student ability). I would like to be able to challenge our more advanced players,” Willits told the school board.

Willits proposes to initiate a MASH Philharmonic, an advanced ensemble for which 10th, 11th and 12th grade string students would need to audition, as well as a Symphony Strings unit for all incoming ninth grade string players. The Symphony Strings also would include upperclassmen who chose not to audition or weren’t selected for the Philharmonic.

Administrators said initiating a second orchestra at the high school wouldn’t require any additional staff, equipment or technology. Willits said the district would need to purchase additional sheet music for this purpose, but those costs could be covered by the music department’s current budget.

Social studies update

Also, high school social studies teacher Clayton McAllister presented the school board with a social studies curriculum update for grades 7-12 next year. Changes include an introduction of “transfer goals” for all secondary grade levels “where students can independently use their learning to analyze and explain (cause) across time and space to examine relationships among events or concepts,” according to proposal documents.

“Our social studies teachers have been working really hard to change minds and change our culture about the way we teach social studies,” McAllister said, adding that the new curriculum would involve far more than past instructional methods of memorizing dates and events.

High school administrators also proposed a new accounting textbook for next year, “Century 21 Accounting.”

The school board is expected to vote on the proposals next month.

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