Archive for Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Board discusses grade pairings at new middle school

December 15, 2004

The basic design of the new middle school -- with younger students separated from older ones -- will remain as planned.

The school, which will be built on the district's 80 acres, will contain classrooms for grades 5 through 8. Original plans separated the two older grades from the two younger grades. This means the older students will have separate wings, and even a separate entrance into the building. And the younger grades will have theirs.

When school architects and administrators met last week, they considered locating the sixth-grade students closer to the seventh-and eighth-grade students.

In this plan, the fifth-graders would remain in self-contained classrooms in another wing of the school.

But after a discussion at Monday night's school board meeting, board members decided it was best to stick with earlier plans.

During the conversation, several board members expressed concern about a proposed change in plans.

Rick Lamb asked about curriculum alignment, wondering whether sixth-graders' curriculum would mesh with that of seventh- and eighth-graders.

TES assistant principal Tammie George said that either grades 4 through 8 or grades 5 through 8 groupings would work.

And Ron Moore referred to the grade 6- through 8- arrangement, asking, "Why didn't you think of that originally?"

George said this idea stemmed from comments she'd heard at public forums.

Board member Richard Dean also questioned the proposed change.

French replied, "It's more to isolate the fifth-graders a little bit more."

And, French noted, having sixth graders -- who move from class to class -- in a separate wing, or pod, would be less disruptive to the fifth grade students if they were in different areas of the building.

Moreover, French said, as the district's enrollment grows, classrooms for fourth-graders could easily be added to the fifth-grade wing.

George said sixth-graders travel for band, computer class, physical education, music and art. And she said, there's been talk of the possible addition of a foreign language class.

Superintendent Richard Erickson noted the board's reluctance to change the grade level configuration.

"If the board really feels strongly about the sixth-grade and you've heard it from the community, we'll make it work," Erickson said.

TES Principal Jerry Daskoski summed up the discussion, saying:

"Whatever the voters thought that they were voting for, we need to make sure that's what happens. ... We can't make a change now once we've got the vote."

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