Parents seem to be on board with the plan to realign the middle schools in Independence, district officials say.
Deputy Superintendent Dale Herl presented survey results to the Independence Board of Education Tuesday. The survey asked parents of students in kindergarten through seventh grade questions including their opinion of creating a sixth grade center and aligning the schools into a feeder system with the high schools.
“What we wanted to do was make sure we got a true representation in our community (about the issue),” he said. “The results surprised us.”
When asked about creating a Sixth Grade Center at Bridger Middle School, 71.8 percent of respondents were positive or very positive. As far as creating a seventh/eighth grade building at Bingham Middle School that would feed into William Chrisman High School and a similar building at Pioneer Ridge Middle School that would feed into Truman High School, 76.6 percent of parents were positive.
Under the realignment plan, the sixth graders at Nowlin would remain at the building, but would move to the third floor, separated from the seventh and eighth graders. Moving the Nowlin sixth graders to Bridger has been considered, but space and transportation were both significant issues. Reorganizing Nowlin instead received a 81.3 percent favorable response.
The goal is to provide an environment for students to be successful in both academics and sports. This type of vertical alignment has seen success in the western portion of the school district with the elementary schools feeding into Nowlin, which feeds solely into Van Horn.
However, not all staff members agree. Christopher Eager, a teacher at Pioneer Ridge, spoke at Tuesday's meeting about some of the district’s recent decisions, including the middle school realignment proposal. He said not only would such a plan “devastate” the PTA organizations, but he also believes it would disrupt the balance the schools have been trying to achieve.
“I think this plans isolates Nowlin. Whether that was the intention or not, that is what is happening. There will also be an even more significant division between Truman and William Chrisman, with 23rd Street becoming the dividing line,” he said. “Fundamentally, I feel his decision is entirely about sports.”
Herl said the process of looking into middle school realignment will continue. However, because of comments made through the survey, the realignment committee is proposing to delay any implementation until the 2014-15 school year. He said this will give teachers time to earn any additional certifications before a change is made.
“This would give us a year to properly plan for this change,” Herl said. “There could also be the situation of teachers not being licensed to teach certain grades, so this would give them a year to do so before it moved forward.”