Archive for Thursday, January 31, 2002

Middle school contemplates transition

January 31, 2002

When school bond supporters celebrated their victory Nov. 6, Eudora Middle School principal Don Grosdidier said his school would begin the process of planning for the transition from one building to another.

In a presentation to the Eudora Board of Education Jan. 10, Grosdidier presented preliminary plans outlining potential changes. Although scheduling changes could take place, the debate-sparking topic was if and how to separate sixth-graders from their seventh- and eighth-grade peers.

Currently, students in sixth-grade attend West Elementary School with fourth- and fifth-graders. When the middle school moves into the current high school in fall 2003, sixth-graders will be thrown in the middle school environment.

"I think one of the biggest challenges is the anxiety of adults involved with change," Grosdidier said. "I think kids can be very resilient. They're going to adapt well to the environment."

Since November, Grosdidier said he spoke with administrators at area districts that kept sixth-graders somewhat separate from seventh- and eighth-graders for at least the first couple years of the change.

The idea is to insulate, not isolate, them, Grosdidier said. The school could accomplish this in part by placing their classrooms and lockers in what is now the senior hallway.

"If you've had a middle school students one of the biggest challenges is getting them to use their lockeras part of their class-changing process," Grosdidier said.

At West, sixth-graders change teachers and classrooms for a few subjects. They also have recess times, which Grosdidier and middle school staff determined sixth-graders should retain after the turnover. That will mean adding playground equipment, four square areas, a basketball court and other game space.

Keeping students insulated from the rest of the middle school raised some questions for school board member Greg Neis.

"I'd hate to insulate the kids for a few years just for a comfort feeling," Neis said.

If he were a sixth-grader in that environment, Neis said, he'd feel like he wasn't a part of the school, like he was "stuck in the spare space."

He said he wanted to make sure sixth-graders felt like they were an integral part of Eudora Middle School, not just an appendage. That would mean encouraging them to get involved with the school, like cheering on their sports teams, Neis said.

"It makes me a little nervous to have seventh- and eighth-grade doing their thing, and sixth-grade stuck over here," he said, especially if the students will be integrated in a couple of years anyway.

Grosdidier said, "We're not talking about putting up walls or tearing down doors."

Moreover, he said, intramural sports could compensate for sixth-graders inability to play competitive school sports with no programs for students that age in the Frontier League.

Superintendent Marty Kobza said insulation wouldn't have to equal isolation if the district makes a concerted effort to involve sixth-graders in middle school life.

"Either way we go," he said, "we'll be creative enough to make sure (isolation) doesn't happen."

As far as what could become of the middle school building itself, Kobza said he planned to meet with Mayor Ron Connor to discuss the building's future. Part of the planning will involve brainstorming a list of members for a 10 to 12-person committee in charge of the building's fate. Kenny Massey volunteered to represent the school board. Kobza said other members should represent a cross-section of Eudora, including the schools, the city, parks and recreation, the historical society, library and other entities.

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