District 518 faculty, staff discuss potential move of fifth-gradersWORTHINGTON — Faculty and staff from Prairie Elementary and the middle school weighed in Monday on the idea of moving fifth-graders to the middle school to deal with increasing enrollment.
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Faculty and staff from Prairie Elementary and the middle school weighed in Monday on the idea of moving fifth-graders to the middle school to deal with increasing enrollment.
Some were enthusiastic about the move, while others raised logistical concerns.
“We’re already teaming and flipping and flopping and I think the kids are handling that beautifully,” said Stacy Dibble, a fifth-grade teacher at Prairie, referring to the middle school schedule, which requires changing of classrooms for each subject.
“I’m concerned about the good things we’re doing being moved to the middle school,” she added, citing programs like Response to Intervention, which helps struggling readers. Those type of lower-level books are also available at the middle school.
Music teachers from both schools questioned whether there would be space available for an additional music classroom, while others wondered if students would get enough physical education time in lieu of the recess they would have at Prairie, or if they would be burdened with too much homework in a middle school setting.
The main worry, however, has to do with other students.
“I think one of the big concerns with parents is the fifth-graders interacting with the eighth-graders,” said District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard.
Middle school faculty pointed out that sixth-graders don’t currently have a lot of contact with the older students, and fifth-graders would likely be separated in a similar fashion.
Others said being around more mature students could be a good thing.
“People don’t give that much concern to kindergarteners with the fourth-and fifth-graders … or the high school” commented school board member Steve Schnieder, though those groups encompass a larger gap in student development. “It’s good to have some mingling in a protected, controlled setting. … They also need to get along; they can’t be isolated their whole lives.”
Schnieder asked the Prairie representatives what would happen if the district did nothing to deal with increasing class sizes.
“Really there’s no space to put an additional teacher in every grade level to keep class sizes down,” answered Prairie assistant principal Josh Noble.
“We really need the help with our strugglers,” who fail in large classes, said Dibble. “The (paraprofessional) support is huge.”
“We have a problem,” responded Schnieder. “To do nothing is not doing our job.”
The proposed eight-classroom addition to the middle school would likely be paid for by alternative facility bonding. The district would use its lease levy, which doesn’t have to be approved by voters, to fund the project.
“The overall impact would be less than $100 per $100,000 home,” explained Landgaard. For most people, he said, “It’s not a huge tax burden.”
It’s possible, too, that not all fifth-graders would be moved to the middle school, with some teachers remaining at Prairie. According to the latest numbers, enrollment is expected to increase for the next two years, level off for a few years and then spike again in the lower grade levels.
There will be a public meeting to discuss district- wide projects, including the addition, at 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at Worthington High School.