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Column: District 518 fifth-grade transition is smooth

District 518

WORTHINGTON -- Greetings from the fifth-grade Worthington Middle School staff and students!

We wanted to take this opportunity to share with everyone in the community how the transition from Prairie Elementary to the middle school has been going for the fifth-grade students.

For most of last school year, the staff at the middle School and the teachers that were making the move from Prairie to the middle school met to make plans for this important transition. Not only were there physical changes that needed to be made, which included a 10-classroom addition, but also many staffing changes to make sure there were enough teachers in many key areas such as ELL, Special Education, Phy Ed, Music and F.A.C.S.

Although many of us worried if everything would be finished in time, we could not have been more impressed with our new classrooms. The janitorial staff did a terrific job of moving our (many!) boxes, the technology staff made sure that our computers and SMART boards were up and running, and the middle school staff and administration were so welcoming and helpful that the fifth-grade teachers felt welcome and ready to ease the changes for the students.

An important component for our fifth-grade team was to try and make the middle school feel as "elementary" as possible for our fifth-grade students. I think we have had great success in reaching this goal. The fifth-grade students are housed in their own wing, and their lockers are separate from the other grades. We operate on a different schedule than the rest of the building so that the students are not trying to get through congested hallways. In the morning, the students meet in the gym to visit and shoot baskets before school starts.We also give them a five-minute head start to get on the bus ahead of the older students. Although fifth-grade students attended the same Homecoming activities and special programs as the rest of the building, they will have to wait until they are older to play on school-sponsored sport teams and go to the middle school dances.

In keeping with an elementary style, our students have a homeroom teacher where they start and end the day. We switch classes in reading, math, science and social studies. Language arts, directed studies and all other classes are taught in their homeroom. Our students have not really noticed much of a difference from Prairie Elementary. The students in my classroom have commented that they really like walking to classes on their own, the opportunity to switch classrooms for different subjects and the chance to play sports on the football field during recess. I'm sure there are a few glitches that still need to work themselves out, but I think the fifth-grade middle school students are off to a great start!

Stacy Dibble is a fifth-grade teacher at Worthington Middle School.