Viewpoints on proposal to move Snohomish sixth graders to middle schools
By Rebecca McGinnis:
On December 8, the Snohomish School District announced to parents and teachers its proposal to move 6th grade from elementary schools to middle schools, to be effective in the 2025-2026 school year.
The school board vote on this proposal is scheduled for February 28.
I acknowledge many school districts have 6th-8th grade in middle school and parents in those school districts might not understand the fuss here; however, in the Snohomish School District, the current model (Kindergarten - 6th in elementary) has been in place for as long as I can recall. From this parent’s perspective, this model makes sense in terms of our children’s development and needs. Parents intentionally chose the Snohomish School District because of the current model. This model is universally touted as a positive for this district. I have not heard any parent or teacher complain about this model. This proposal is not coming from parents or with the support of parents or students.
Moreover, the District confirms this proposal is NOT due to overcrowded elementary schools and confirmed our elementary schools have capacity to meet future growth and most were designed with the K-6 Model in mind. Instead, the District explains the reason for this proposal as an “enhanced middle school experience.” I frankly find this to be dubious reasoning. The data available shows no measurable difference between the academic performance of 6th graders in elementary school vs. middle school.
The District acknowledges this proposed change would trigger overcrowding issues at Centennial Middle School (one of the two middle schools in the district). Centennial opened in 2012 and was designed to handle 7th and 8th grades only. In order to accommodate the increase in students with this proposal, the District admits Centennial would need a re-design of the parking lot/pick up lanes, and 4 double portables (8 portable classrooms) with no plan as where those portables would be placed. This would be a long-term solution to address the increased number of students as there are no plans (or available space) to expand Centennial.
This change would also impact the Snohomish Boys and Girls Club, which currently serves 6th graders in before/after school care (including transportation to and from school) and school breaks from 6am – 6:30pm. For reference, many 6th graders are 11 years old and still need supervision. It is not clear whether the District considered the impact to those families who rely on the Boys and Girls Club due to conflicting work schedules, etc.
I am disappointed with the School Board’s rushed 2 ½ month timeline for this proposal and decision, which appears designed to guarantee parents lack the knowledge and understanding of the true impacts of this decision to voice their concerns. The few meetings conducted by the School Board to discuss this proposal have proven there are more questions than answers in terms of the real impact this proposal would have on our students and the logistics of this change. All things considered, there is an appearance of a lack of transparency and a feeling that the District is hiding the ball. I encourage more parents to voice their opinions about this proposal to the School Board.
This is an ill-conceived proposal with more questions than answers at this point, despite being one month away from the school board vote. The School Board would be wise to consider the strong opposition by parents to this proposal and vote against implementing this proposal to move 6th grade to middle school beginning in the 2025-2026 school year. A more detailed look into this proposal is needed, along with the involvement of parents, students and community members.
Rebecca McGinnis is a parent of students in Snohomish School District schools.
By Kent Kultgen, superintendent:
In December 2023 we communicated the district’s recommendation of a reconfiguration of our grades by moving the 6th grade to middle school, creating K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools, beginning fall 2025. As I’ve shared in discussions, our community’s input is crucial as we navigate this potential transition, ensuring that it aligns with the needs and expectations of our school community.
The intentional nature of this process allows us to uncover and identify uncertainties and take the time necessary to thoroughly understand and explore possible resolutions. The valuable input received from our stakeholders during these discussions is integral to shaping the decision-making process. We remain optimistic about the positive impact that this change, if approved, could have on every facet of our educational system, ultimately benefiting our students.
The School Board is scheduled to deliberate on this recommendation in February 2024. Should the School Board approve the recommendation, there will be an additional 18 months provided for thorough preparation leading up to the implementation phase. We appreciate the collaborative efforts of our staff, community, and stakeholders in navigating through this significant decision-making process.
As we move through this process together, we can create an educational environment that maximizes the growth and success of our students. If you are interested in learning more about the proposed reconfiguration, additional details can be found at www.sno.wednet.edu/middleschool.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to share that Snohomish School District kindergarten and new student registration for 2024-2025 are just around the corner.
Our district will hold its annual Spring into Kindergarten event from 4-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, at all district elementary schools. We highly encourage all incoming kindergartners and their families to attend this popular annual event. Families are encouraged to complete and return their kindergarten registration paperwork that day. Our district’s kindergarten program provides children with the opportunity to explore, discover and experience the joy of learning. You can learn more about Spring into Kindergarten and kindergarten registration at www.sno.wednet.edu/springintokindergarten.
For those who have you recently moved to the Snohomish area or will have a 1st-12th grade student who will be new to the Snohomish School District during the 2024–2025 school year, we can’t wait for you to join us! Please register at the elementary, middle, or high school your child will attend or visit www.sno.wednet.edu/newstudentenrollment so that we can be sure you’re ready to go for the first day of school in the fall.
Last fall our district launched its full-day Transition to Kindergarten program. As a district, we know that effective early learning provides a high-leverage opportunity to build an empowering foundation for parent/guardian and school partnerships formed around readiness, safety, inclusivity, and creativity.
Transition to Kindergarten, Developmental Preschool and ECEAP are early learning programs offered to our district’s youngest learners. Transition to Kindergarten is a stepping stone between preschool and kindergarten and is for children who are not yet 5-years-old, who do not have access to high-quality early learning experiences prior to kindergarten, and through a district screening process have been identified in need of additional preparation to be successful in kindergarten the following year. If you have a child aged 3-5 who would benefit from attending one of these early learning programs, please visit us at www.sno.wednet.edu/earlylearningprograms.
As always, thank you for your dedication and commitment! I look forward to our continued collaborative efforts in shaping the future of our Snohomish School District community.
Dr. Kent Kultgen
Kent Kultgen is the superintendent of the Snohomish School District.
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