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Coeur d’Alene elementary school program to be removed

Board ends Primary Years Programme at CdA elementary

A popular teaching framework at a Coeur d’Alene elementary school is getting the boot, even after hundreds of parents and residents rallied to save it.

The Coeur d’Alene School Board voted unanimously Monday night to end the Primary Years Programme at Hayden Meadows Elementary School at the end of this school year.

The decision came eight weeks after the board decided to eliminate the affiliated International Baccalaureate program at Lake City High School, citing low enrollment and lackluster test scores.

Several board trustees said PYP furthers a philosophy that encourages students to think of themselves as citizens of the world, echoing critics who assail the program for being anti-American and aligned with the United Nations.

After listening to 2 1/2 hours of passionate testimony for and against the program, several read prepared statements calling PYP a social-political philosophy that has no place in public schools.

The issue before the board, trustee Jim Purtee said, is “the state teaching a singular philosophy with embedded values to impressionable young children. We are not sitting here talking about a high school philosophy class.”

Schools instead should be focused on ensuring students become proficient in reading, mathematics, history and writing, Purtee said.

Trustee Ann Seddon said the emphasis PYP places on global citizenry is confusing to children as they grow up.

“A global citizen would then be a member of the world, owes allegiance to it and is entitled to the international rights of the U.N.,” Seddon said.

Designed for students ages 3 to 12, PYP focuses on the development of the whole child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside.

Scores of parents, teachers and residents packed the board’s meeting room Monday night for a passionate debate on the fate of the program. Testimony by more than 30 people included sharp contrasts in the characterization of PYP and its value to the educational mission at Hayden Meadows, as well as questions about a political bent driving the board’s decisions and accusations of bullying and intimidation between supporters and opponents of the program.

Supporters of PYP urged trustees to take more time to learn how popular the program is among parents, possibly through a survey. They also presented petitions with more than 600 signatures of those who want the program to remain one of the choices families have in the school district.

“I love what I see happening with my children as well as others,” said Kate Overland, a parent of three children who attend the school and who has volunteered in classes there. “I see no negative impact of PYP.”

Several lauded the performance of students at Hayden Meadows and credit the PYP approach to boosting student engagement and advanced questioning.

“My kids are performing outstandingly,” said Mary Hoskins, a kindergarten teacher at Hayden Meadows.

Others spoke against PYP, including some who see anti-American overtones to the program, or who believe it seeks to shape the values of children and strays from a focus on educational basics.

Kate Hamilton, wife of board President Tom Hamilton, also took a turn at the lectern, saying she and her husband pulled their fifth-grader out of Hayden Meadows recently. They made that decision, she said, after some PYP defenders were at the school “dragging my child’s name through the mud” in order to attack Tom Hamilton for his stance on PYP.

Superintendent Hazel Bauman told the board it may be possible to separate families who support PYP from those who oppose it and place them on separate campuses. But board members indicated the program had become too troublesome to keep in any form.

“It is clear that due to the controversial nature of this program that is causing such negative divisiveness in this community, it’s time to put it behind us,” Trustee Terri Seymour said.

Bauman noted that there’s a good chance parents who like PYP will start a charter school to keep the program as an option in the district. That would have a financial impact on the district, however.

Every 22 students who leave to join a charter school will reduce the district’s share of state funding by $80,000.

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