A crowd of approximately 75 people attended the Castle Heights town hall meeting on Nov. 20. Those in attendance voiced concern over the possibility of moving Carbon School District sixth graders to a 6-8 grade school.
The proposal of re-aligning district schools has come to light recently as school board members have been reaching out to the public for input. Currently, a vote is scheduled for the Dec. 11 board meeting, in which members will decide whether or not to move on with alignment procedures.
If school board members vote in favor of grade alignment, several possibilities will then be looked at. One such possibility is to move the sixth grade students. Another scenario is to leave the elementary grade configuration alone, keeping grades Kindergarten through sixth grade housed under one roof.
The board has also proposed moving ninth grade students to Carbon High. Much debate has been made over this matter, however, parents at the Castle Heights meeting were more concerned with what the future holds for upcoming sixth grade students.
Several parents in attendance voiced concern over the maturity level of children entering sixth grade. Some feel that emotionally and socially, these students will not be ready to handle the pressure of attending school with 7-8 grade children. Used to a nurturing education in the elementary schools, parents fear that a junior high or middle school setting will set some students up for failure.
On the other hand, many parents and even educators feel the move would not affect the students in a negative way, but rather be a positive experience.
Helper Junior High teacher, Chris Sweeney addressed the crowd and explained why he felt the move would benefit students. “We are not giving our kids the credit they deserve. They are more mature than we give them credit for,” he stated. “Sixth grade is my favorite grade to teach. If it’s done right (alignment) then a lot of opportunities will be provided that is not available at the elementary or junior high levels. Your kids are in good hands with our teachers. We want students to be taken care of.”
Concern over special needs students was also raised during the town hall meeting. Some fear that these children will get lost in the mix. Educators in attendance vowed to make sure this does not happen. Specialized needs will be addressed on an individual basis just as they are now at the elementary level. Although details may need to be reviewed and possibly adjusted to fit a 6-8 grade alignment, board members and educators alike were open to the public’s input.
Mont Harmon special education teacher, Dave Cox explained that he is in favor of the grade alignment for special needs students. He is aware that a program alignment would require fine tuning, but the possibilities could be beneficial to special needs children. “I feel we could service these kids better if they were all together,” he stated. “If the program is not modeled around a junior high based program.”
By the end of the meeting, most in attendance left with concerns of a decision being made hastily. With a school board vote looming in less than a month, parents and educators alike worry that a decision will be made prematurely.
Parent and teacher, Scott Fincher spoke about this concern. “A decision will take longer than December’s vote date in order to do things right,” he stated. “A vote will destroy what’s good now if we move too fast. We know it won’t be a Westridge (previous middle school) again, but what will it be? We feel it will happen regardless of what we want. We just want to make sure it doesn’t happen too fast.”
School board members, Jeff Richens and Wayne Woodward both re-assured the crowd that they will not make a decision until they are confident that students will benefit from their action. “I am not supportive of casting a vote without answers or a complete understanding of something,” explained Woodward. “We have a history of tabling issues due to a lack of understanding.”
Attorney Jeremy Humes attended the meeting as a Castle Heights parent. Humes offered his personal and legal suggestion to board members. “The timing seems short. Just make sure everything works well,” he advised. “I ask you to have research in hand before a decision is made.”
Although school district superintendent Steve Carlsen previously voiced his desire to see the grade alignment take place next school year, a deadline for the proposed changes has not been set. Even if school board members vote in favor of the proposed changes, details will need to be worked out. Implementation of these changes could take some time to take effect, thus giving board members time to make the correct education plan for Carbon district students.