With students already displaced while their building is being renovated, Odenton Elementary parents are considering whether the school's system for grouping students should be overhauled as well.
Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee are looking into a system that would group students from different grade levels in one class, based on ability rather than age.
"It's a good time to get educated," CAC president Diana Gardner said.
"We are in the midst of having people study the kind of school we would like to have when we move into the new building.
"The principal said what she would like for our school. We asked permission to study it and she agreed."
Principal Barbara San Gabino proposed the idea to parents, after using a similar structure at West Annapolis Elementary before coming to Odenton.
West Annapolis has since changed back to traditional class groupings by age.
San Gabino will be out for several weeks, but parents are continuing their research into what is best for kindergarten through sixth-graders at the school, temporarily housed at Arundel Junior.
The $6.3 million renovation and expansion project is scheduled to be completed by the end of April, but students will not return to the building until next September.
The CAC and representatives from the Parent-Teacher Association are hoping to have the issue resolved before the building is reopened.
"We're studying to see what happens in multi-age, traditional and team-teaching arrangements," Gardner said. "We will make a recommendation at a later date to the board."
The groups are planning to present a formal report on their findings to school board members in February. Parents have listened to speakers including Dennis Younger, the school system's curriculum director, who said he has mixed feelings on the topic.
While Younger said the concept has worked in other parts of the country, he remains concerned about making it work for instruction in science and social studies.
"When there is a multi-age grouping, normally it's in reading and language arts and mathematics," Younger said. "It is the acceptance of the reality that we can take any age group of youngsters and find a wide range of abilities.
"I have not felt as comfortable about it, professionally, in the area of science and math," he said. "It is difficult to find appropriate print and non-print material for wide bands of age groups."
He expressed confidence, however, in the parents and their efforts.
"Ms. Gabino is anxious to do what the families in the school want," he said. "They are committed to finding out what is best. It's been my experience that once parents, faculty and staff decide what's best, it can work."