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USD 408 will move 6th grade to middle school

Staff writer

At its December meeting Monday, the USD 408 Board of Education approved the transition of sixth grade from the elementary school to the middle school for next school year.

“Our curriculum fits grades six through eight well,” Superintendent Lee Leiker said. “There’s some advantages certainly of students seeing middle school before jumping into all those activities, and middle school fits the mindset of sixth graders better than elementary school.”

The topic was broached at the board’s October meeting, during which the board seemed mostly in agreement that it was the right move. Monday, the principals of both schools agreed.

“It’s a perfect fit that sixth grade goes over,” elementary principal Justin Wasmuth said. “You look at other 3A schools around here, it’s sixth to eighth grade. I think we’re kind of behind, actually.”

Middle school principal Missy Stubenhofer said the move is ideal right now because the middle school has ample space to fit another grade level.

Currently there are 66 students in the middle school, with 34 set to graduate to high school next year. The incoming classes will bring 75 students, with 33 of those being the middle school’s inaugural sixth-grade class.

The issue was discussed in 2009, but ultimately the board decided to keep sixth grade in the elementary school.

The backlash to the idea five years ago was how high school students would interact with sixth graders and a lack of space in the middle school. Stubenhofer and high school principal Tod Gordon said there is minimal interaction between high school and middle school students.

Leiker and others said the move needed to be done to give students a chance to adjust to middle school before taking on the activities and rigors of seventh grade.

Board member Jan Helmer, who was on the board in 2009 when the move was discussed, reiterated her continuing support for the move.

“We throw those kids from sixth grade into seventh grade and they now start doing sports and they start doing this and it’s like: They’re not organized enough … to be able to do that,” she said.

The board unanimously approved the move without much discussion. Wasmuth said the feedback from parents has been mostly positive.

“I’ve had at least six I can think of that were all about it,” he said. “The comment I’ve heard is why hasn’t this happened a while back, long ago.”

Sixth graders will be on a rotating schedule like the other middle school students, and some staff will need to be brought from the elementary school to the middle school. Leiker said the exact details of the transition will be worked out in future meetings.

He added that sixth graders will not participate in sports.

With increased free space, Leiker said he didn’t know whether the move would lead to a reinstatement of the elementary school’s art program. The art room was changed into a kindergarten classroom this year to help accommodate a class of 52 kindergartners. Lack of space was cited as a reason for the art program’s removal.

In other business:

  • Leiker and Sprowls reflected on time at the Kansas Association of School Boards convention, held Dec. 5-7 in Topeka.
  • The board opened discussion about Marion’s vision project, which Mayor Todd Heitschmidt presented on during last month’s meeting. The board decided to get more information from Heitschmidt on how to proceed.
  • Alex Case presented an EMC Insurance quote for 2015, and the board approved its acceptance.
  • The board approved the establishment of a scholarship in the name of Michael Navrat and Helen Ptacek Navrat.

Last modified Dec. 11, 2014

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