RSU 9 sixth-graders to go middle school in Farmington next school year

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FARMINGTON — RSU 9 directors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a plan to send all sixth-graders to Mt. Blue Middle School in Farmington beginning in September.

It will change the grade levels at five elementary schools in the 10-town district.

The effort is designed to ease overcrowding at Mallett School in Farmington, Cushing School in Wilton and Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon. Each is overcrowded by 30 to 50 students.

The changes will allow the elementary schools to use rooms and spaces the way they were intended. The sixth-grade move to the middle school will allow more educational opportunities, including consistency in programming and curriculum, school officials said.

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Superintendent Thomas Ward said transitional meetings would be held for parents, especially for those who have students changing schools. There will also be step-up days for students.

The shift will make the middle school a grades six-through-eight school.

Mallett School third-graders will move to Cascade Brook School, also in Farmington. Mallett School will become a pre-kindergarten through second-grade school. Cascade Brook will house third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

Second-graders at Cushing School will move to Academy Hill School, also in Wilton. Cushing will become a pre-kindergarten through first-grade school and Academy Hill will house second- through fifth-graders.

Cape Cod Hill School will become a pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade school. The sixth-graders will be divided into two communities at the middle school but will be in the same central area, Principal Gary Oswald said. There is room for eight classrooms, with modifications, at the school, he said.

The minimum needs at the middle school include $5,500 for modifications to the school, $10,000 for technology improvements and $41,400 to make the assistant principal/athletic director a full-time position, Ward said.

Among the other needs that will go to the Budget Committee are a half-time guidance counselor and a half-time physical education/health teacher.

Those positions were needed all along, Ward said. Students at the middle school get physical education every other day for half a year, Oswald said.

“When you get middle school kids getting physical education two times a week for half a year, that’s not good,” Ward said.

The student population at the middle school will go from 340 to an estimated 507 next year, Oswald said.

“We did meet with (five of the district’s seven) sixth-grade teachers” Ward said. “I think, overall, they liked what they saw.”

They might all choose to go to the middle school, he said. The staff plans to look at where the needs are and to focus on those as priorities, with the understanding that they all cannot be funded. The staffing for the middle school will be a priority in the budget process.

“We need these positions, regardless of whether we restructure,” Ward said. “We have many needs. We have been very lean for years. I’m not going to gloss it over, and we will look at those needs.”

Restructuring was not proposed to save money, he said, but to provide a better program for students.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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