Fort Mill Times

Single gender: FMMS wants to try it next year

FORT MILL TOWNSHIP -- Next year, Fort Mill Middle School will serve as a pilot program for single gender classrooms.

That is, if enough parents sign their kids up for the experiment.

Studies are showing that boys and girls learn differently and separating them may aid learning for both genders.

"We've learned a lot from the research, like boys learn better with a lot of motion, when the teacher is moving around a lot, but for girls, emotion is more important and a lot of movement is distracting," Fort Mill Middle School Principal Tommy Schmolze said Monday. "They even learn better at different temperatures: 69 degrees is optimal for boys, 75 degrees is optimal for girls."

The pilot program will cover the four core subjects - language arts, math, science and social sciences. Over the coming weeks, parents of incoming sixth graders and rising seventh and eighth graders will get information about the program and how to opt in. If enough parents like the idea, the school will set up all boys and all girls classes to serve those students. Other courses, such as the related arts and gym, will remain co-ed.

"I'm on the School Improvement Council and I went to the meeting last Thursday completely against single gender classes," parent Julie Howren said.

"Now I'm its biggest supporter."

At first she worried separating the sexes would inhibit the children's socialization, but after learning more about it from David Chadwell, who works on single gender issues for the S.C. Department of Education, Howren has convinced her son to give the classes a shot next year.

The decision will be left entirely up the the parents, Fort Mill School Board Chairwoman Jan Smiley said.

"I'm a parent of both a boy and a girl, so I completely understand that they both learn differently," Smiley said.

Offering single gender classes will not cost the district any extra money. The state provides training for single gender teachers, and the courses being offered are not new, Schmolze said.

If the program is successful it may be expanded to other schools, Smiley added.