The Beat: Weekly news roundup

It might not feel like it outside, but summer is about to end — at least for students in the city and county school systems.

In “More Western North Carolina School Systems May Seek Waiver from Calendar Law,” the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that the Tuesday, Aug. 17, return date is about a week earlier than planned. Because of all the snow days last winter, the two systems got a last-minute waiver from state calendar law — which stipulates that schools can’t normally start before Aug. 25.

The C-T also ran a series of articles last week that covered some of the changes students at two city schools will see as they head back in to the classroom.

According to “Asheville Middle School Testing Single-Gender Core Classes,” a group of about 45 sixth-graders — a class of girls and class of boys — will have separate classes for language arts, social studies, math and science. Lunch, exploratory classes and clubs will remain coed.

Separating the sexes is a growing education trend: At the end of the 2009-10 school year, 164 schools in South Carolina had single-gender programs, said David Chadwell, coordinator of the state’s initiatives. Chadwell also told the C-T that although federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, in 2002 the No Child Left Behind Act opened the door for school systems to use single-gender classes “as an innovative program to meet educational objectives.”

Jennifer Hartman, one of the two Asheville Middle School teachers who will be teaching the single-gender classes, emphasized to the paper that she doesn’t think the program’s about splitting up boys and girls for separation’s sake. “The bigger deal is it teaches to their strengths and supports the areas they need help with, in a targeted manner,” she said. While stressing that all girls are different and all boys are different, she went on to assert, “Girls can make the connection between the left and right hemisphere (of the brain). … It’s harder for boys to do that.”

And over at the Randolph Learning Center — the city’s alternative school for students who have not succeeded at mainstream schools — the C-T reported that hunter-green and khaki-clad kids will fill the classrooms. According to “Uniforms Make Back-to-School Fashion Simple,” the school board gave the OK in June for Randolph to require uniform dress for students, a move intended to improve student behavior, increase attendance and boost self-esteem.

“The idea of Randolph is to be an alternative school where kids who have not been successful in school before change their patterns and their attitudes,” said principal Gordon Grant. “The uniforms help redefine them.”

Randolph is the first Asheville City school to give uniform dress a try, but more might be on the way. A city task force has been studying whether uniforms should be required systemwide, and a decision is expected sometime this fall.

”Drinks and Dialogue” asks, “Is Asheville segregated?”

Drinks and conversation seem to go together naturally, and an event in Charlotte gave Ashevillean Tim Smith the idea to organize a similar gathering he’s calling “Drinks and Dialogue.”

“It started off as people just getting together to have a drink and talk about everything from relationships to politics,” Smith told Xpress. He said he’s made a low-key start with some Drinks and Dialogue events in homes, but wanted to do something more public.

On Saturday, Aug. 21, Drinks and Dialogue will make its public debut at the Haywood Lounge, with doors opening at 7 p.m.; Smith has certainly tackled a big topic for its first go. “Why is Asheville segregated?” Smith plans to ask, adding that the topic came up after Xpress posted a staff blog on whether or not Asheville is a racially divided town.

“I was reading through the [online] comments and wondered: Why don’t people sit down and have this discussion face-to-face?” he revealed.

The event is free.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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