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USD 408 considers moving 6th grade to middle school

Staff writer

At its monthly meeting, the USD 408 board of education broached the subject of moving sixth grade from the elementary school into the middle school.

The issue was brought up as a discussion item, but principals Justin Wasmuth, of the elementary school, and Missy Stubenhofer, of the middle school, both want to move forward on the issue in time for the 2015-16 school year.

“This conversation has been going on a long time, and I think we need to move on this whole thing,” board member Jan Helmer said. “No matter if we have people who are arguing over it, it’s time we treated our sixth graders as middle school kids.”

The board determined it would benefit students as an academic, social, athletic, and physical transition year between elementary school and middle school.

“It just makes sense,” Wasmuth said. “There’s too many positives that outweigh the negatives.”

Wasmuth and Stubenhofer said most of the multiyear curricular programs focus on kindergarten through fifth grade and then, separately, sixth through eighth grade.

“I’ve always said that sixth graders are more like seventh and eighth graders than kindergartners, first, and second graders,” Stubenhofer said.

But the middle school is adjacent to the high school, which has raised concerns in the past. Stubenhofer said that, for the most part, interaction between middle schoolers and high schoolers is a nonissue.

Superintendent Lee Leiker echoed her sentiments.

“Middle school students come in one door, high school students don’t even get to use that door, they have to go in the other door even in the mornings,” he said.

“The high schoolers who sneak in the front door are late,” Stubenhofer said. “So they’re not stopping to chit-chat with any of the little junior-high kids, they’re making a beeline for wherever they’re supposed to be.”

With the middle school enrollment at 72, there’s ample space for the middle school building to absorb another grade level.

“Another issue that came up in the past is class sizes, because we were going to push the envelope of what space we had,” board president Chris Sprowls said.

“Unfortunately that’s not a problem right now,” Stubenhofer said. “I think we’re still only looking at 100 between those three grades.”

Wasmuth said the next three or four classes into the middle school would be between 35 and 40 students.

Leiker emphasized that the sole motive of the idea was to improve the quality of education for the students.

“The other thing about this, and I want to be clear, we’re not looking at this as a financial benefit to save money or anything, I don’t think it does that. It’s simply something to look at that we feel is good for students,” Leiker said. “It’s not motivated by anything except for what’s best for our students.”

Leiker said the board will bring it up in future meetings, and wants to make a decision early on so it has time to make that transition if it’s what they decide to do.

In other business:

  • Sherri Sells and students from the Extended Learning Program gave a presentation of projects they worked on and talked about the benefits they’ve had from the ELP.
  • The board voted for a building used to house district buses in Florence to be auctioned off.
  • The board approved a cooperative agreement with USD 397 to merge Centre and Marion’s baseball teams. A proposal to also merge the softball teams was declined.
  • Families and Communities Together representative Ashley Gann gave a presentation on the results from the 2013 Kansas Communities That Care Student Survey, relating to drug and alcohol use as well as social behaviors from students in Marion County.

Last modified Oct. 15, 2014

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