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Elementary school opts for single-gendered class time

Date: 9/5/2012

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — Aug. 29 marked the first day of school and a new venture for fourth-graders attending Franklin Avenue Elementary School. This year, the children will spend their reading and math lessons in single-gendered classrooms.

"Fourth grade students are transitioning into a heavier academic curriculum," Leslie Clark-Yvon, principal, explained. "One of the difficulties at this level is the social interaction between genders, which gets in the way of learning."

In a letter to parents of fourth-graders, Clark-Yvon stated, "As a principal, I find the majority of behavior problems occurring in fourth grade and most often involving problems between boys and girls. Many of these problems are severe, gain intensity through cell phones and home computer use, and become imbedded and carried into fifth grade."

The school researched this option before implementing the change; Clark-Yvon cited many books, including "Learning Like a Girl, Boys and Girls Learn "Differently," and "Reviving Ophelia." She stated, "There are real physical reasons why boys and girls learn differently."

In June, Clark-Yvon knew she wanted to implement the change, but instead waited until she had confirmation that this year's enrollment numbers supported the change. Having an equal amount of students enables the classes to be split up equally.

"The children are really excited about it," Clark-Yvon said. "The teachers are thrilled that it [the numbers] worked."

When asked if any parents expressed concern, she stated that the majority of them are willing to try it, but encouraged parents with questions or concerns regarding this change or any other school-related issues, to contact her.

"We're striving to do well by our kids," Clark-Yvon said.

Dr. Suzanne Scallion, Superintendent of Schools was unable to be reached in time for publication.