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Examiner
  • Middle schools might be realigned in Independence

  • When the schools in western Independence came into the Independence School District six years ago, the district created a feeder system. Now the school district wants that same type of system for its other three middle schools, changing the current structure of the middle schools.

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  • When the schools in western Independence came into the Independence School District six years ago, the district created a feeder system.
    Three Trails, Korte, Fairmount and Sugar Creek elementary schools feed directly into Nowlin Middle School. Nowlin feeds into Van Horn High School. The structure created a vertical alignment among the buildings allowing for greater opportunities for teacher collaboration and better success among the students socially and academically was well as in extracurricular activities.
    Now the school district wants that same type of system for its other three middle schools.
    “As we were looking at the (middle school) concept, we thought that it needed to look like the Van Horn attendance area,” said Deputy Superintendent Dale Herl during Tuesday’s Independence Board of Education meeting. “There are some wonderful things occurring out there with collaboration, and we wanted to re-create the same type of thing on the other side of the district.”
    The Middle School Realignment Committee is proposing a realignment of three of the district’s middle schools - Bridger, Bingham and Pioneer Ridge. Bridger would be turned into a sixth grade center for the three middle schools. Bingham and Pioneer Ridge would then become seventh and eighth grade centers each feeding into one high school - Truman or William Chrisman.
    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 was considered, but space and transportation were both brought up as significant issues.
    The goal of the plan, said Truman band director Todd Reinhardt, is to provide an environment for students to give them the best opportunity to be successful in academics as well as activities and sports. It would also give sixth graders a transitional year where they could become comfortable with the middle school concept.
    “Currently the high schools are split and vertical alignment among some activities is not occurring. The facilities are also not equal,” he said. “Moving to this concept would allow for that vertical alignment and also give a transition year for the sixth graders. We don’t want them in with the elementary schools, but we are not sure they are ready to be put with the seventh and eighth graders either.”
    Right now, about half of Pioneer Ridge students go to William Chrisman and half to Truman. About 70 percent of Bingham students go on to William Chrisman, and 90 percent of Bridger goes to Truman High School. Creating a similar feeder system to what is occurring in western Independence, Reinhardt said, provides continuity for the students and allows for collaboration between the middle and high school level.
    “This would give students a chance to develop pride in their high school,” he said. “What is most important is to make a decision that is best for kids and not what is easiest for adults.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Superintendent Jim Hinson said when the middle schools were realigned several years ago from the sixth, seventh and eighth grade center concept, the concern was the number of transitions students were making. Now, he said, the concern is the sixth graders and making sure they are prepared socially and academically for middle school.
    “I think it (the last realignment) worked out pretty well, but now we are hearing from parents that they are concerned about that sixth grade year,” he said. “They are concerned that the kids as sixth graders are not equipped to deal with everything that is going on.”
    A survey is being sent out to parents K-7 in the next couple of weeks to gauge their options of the realignment proposal. After that, it will return to the board of education for consideration. Any changes should be in place for the 2013-14 school year.
     
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