NETTLETON When fifth grader Justin Baulch began the school y

NETTLETON When fifth grader Justin Baulch began the school year, he had a choice to make.

He could participate in Nettleton Elementary School’s gifted program or he could participate in computer and art courses.

The choice is one faced by about 25 of the school’s fourth through sixth grade gifted students.

“The class schedule is structured so that all students have an enrichment period,” said gifted teacher Jo Ann Duke. “Gifted students come to our class and others go to computers or music or art.”

It’s a choice Justin’s father did not think his son should be forced to make.

“Computer skills are one of the biggest needs of students today,” said father Phillip Baulch, who is a software engineer. “It’s detrimental for these students not to get that background. My son has exposure to computers at home but not in a formal setting where he is given specific tasks to complete. Other students aren’t getting it at all.”

All students in first through third grade have computers in their regular classrooms.

Gifted classes are not equipped with computers because the money’s not there to purchase them, Duke said.

“Our district is a poor one,” said Duke, who is one of two gifted teachers at the school that straddles the Lee County-Monroe County border. “We haven’t been able to receive grant money from anyone. When we apply for grants they tell us we don’t reach a broad enough population. It’s a real problem.”

But with the help of the newly-formed Parents for Advanced and Gifted Education, that could change.

The organization, which goes by the acronym PAGE, is holding several fund raisers that parents hope will serve to raise $15,000 needed to purchase computers, and variety of multi-media and darkroom equipment.

The group, headed by Baulch, is currently selling raffle tickets for a chair and automan. School calendars that include the birthdays of students will also be sold. A Valentine’s Day Party is also in the works, with students being charged for admission and concessions.

“We are going to get these kids the money,” Baulch said. “We have a lot of things planned. But things haven’t been finalized. We are hoping more furniture will be donated, since that’s the primary … industry here.”

The gifted program serves students in second through eighth grade. High school freshmen and sophomores also schedule time in the gifted program, working around the schedules of their Advanced Placement English classes.

For more information, Baulch can be reached at 963-2854.

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