Oliver gets green light for science, math change

By Trina Trice

A Riverdale school has the official ok to proceed with a math and science theme in its curriculum.

E.W. Oliver Elementary School's math and science-laden curriculum will be implemented as soon as the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, said Dr. Ron Boykins, principal.

"There are components of these things that are already going on," he said. "What we're trying to do is bring all of it under one umbrella. We're at the point where implementation starts."

Using a high school model, Oliver's math and science theme will incorporate science and math clubs, competitions and staff development.

Instituting the Science and Math fests was the first step Boykins took to encourage his students to excel in the science and math.

For both events, students compete against the same grade level. Science Fest was in its second year during the 2002-2003 school year.

""Our kids just aren't doing well in science," Boykins said. "They shy away from doing science and math. If we really want our kids to excel, we've got to teach our kids how to compete with the brightest minds in the country, not just the county. Some say competition isn't good for elementary school children, but why do we have 3-year-olds in T-ball games?"

Oliver parents Anthony and Kimberley Lovett support the school's bid to become a theme school, and Boykins' push for competition participation.

"It's an excellent idea," she said. "It teaches our children the importance of math and science."

An important element of the math and science theme for Oliver is the Science Center, Boykins said.

The center is fixed room, in which students can work on science projects on a continual basis. In the past teachers would have to prepare, administer, and remove science project materials?tasks that were time-consuming.

"We were trying to do the science and push the math and reading initiatives, but there just isn't enough time in the day" for teachers, Boykins said. "We needed to do something to give the teachers that extra support."

Science and math departments have already been established.

A proposed space center might be placed on hold, though.

The proposal "hasn't been placed before the Clayton County Board of Education, Boykins said. "All of this has been a learning process for us. There could be some aspects that need board approval. We tried to get away from the things that required that kind of approval, though. Our focus right now is flexibility with the curriculum."

The proposal showed signs of becoming embroiled in the on-going school board controversy when a plan to put it on the agenda for discussion was blocked.

But Interim Superintendent Dr. William Chavis has expressed support for the Oliver proposal and said recently that he approved the move and told school officials as long as they didn't change and names of programs no approval from the board is needed.

Boykins said, "I'm telling parents from the time we begin, give us two years and we'll be recognized as one of the top science and math schools there are."