KC Public Schools 'tweeners' need own buildings
The Kansas City Star
A few years ago, middle school students had their own buildings in the Kansas City Public Schools district. But some were troubled by safety concerns, and academic performance was mostly poor. So the district administration reassigned most 12- and-13-year old students into kindergarten-through-eighth-grade elementary schools.
Middle schoolers were sent packing again in 2010 when the district reorganized and closed nearly half its schools because of financial problems and declining enrollment. This time they were placed with high school students in buildings encompassing seventh through 12th grades.
Now, what to do with “tweeners” is back on the table.
The timing is right. The district’s enrollment has climbed to 17,585 and is expected to be about 18,000 next year, with more growth at the middle school level. And it’s no wonder. There are 2,142 seventh- and eighth-graders, compared with 9,299 elementary school students.
Creating strong middle schools would fit the district’s push toward greater stability and improved academic performance. It could also help move Kansas City Public Schools back to accreditation, which it lost in January.
Also working in the district’s favor is its plan to hold forums in the spring to get public input on reopening mothballed middle schools near Northeast, Paseo and Lincoln high schools. The possibility of adding sixth-graders will also be open for discussion.
District superintendent Steve Green said the district wants to do a better job of keeping parents from sending their children to private schools after the pre-kindergarten and elementary school grades. Having strong, academically excellent middle schools would help.
The school board would have to approve the change for the 2014-2015 school year. Doing so would put the district in line with the trend in education to group middle-school students in their own buildings, providing age-appropriate space and curriculum.
Fortunately, the district is in a better position to make that work than it was a couple of years ago. The public’s input will help.