Next year, the East Valley School District is scheduled to complete a transition to a system in which students stay at the same home school until they graduate from eighth grade. But with the recent failure at the polls of a $65 million bond measure, district officials find themselves planning for the transition with limited resources.
While the board is planning to move forward with the conversion to K-8, there is disagreement among parents on how to do it, when to do it or if they should even do it at all.
Last week, the school board held a community work session to discuss ideas. Tuesday evening, teachers, parents, school board members and administrators talked about their own feelings about the change. Based on the last meeting, Superintendent John Glenewinkel presented some ideas the board has proposed.
Ideas included moving all preschool programs, including Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, as well as the Homelink program and appropriate alternative learning programs to East Valley Middle School. Keeping this year’s seventh-graders at their home schools next year to complete the K-8 transition and convening advisory groups to address individual school issues and monitor progress rounded out the list of recommendations.
One parent, Carol Rasmussen, said the district was taking a top-to-bottom approach with the conversion. She said the district would have more community buy-in if those affected most by K-8 felt fully engaged in the process. As a parent of a seventh-grader, she said she felt they were missing out on a coming-of-age ritual of middle school. She said there have been rumors that music would be cut, which would do the children a disservice, and feels the need for more discussion and planning before the district moves forward.
Matt Thistle, band teacher at the middle school, said he has been teaching in the district for eight years, which he called the best of his career. He said he is not opposed to K-8 schools in general, however, “I think it’s a big mistake to go K-8 next year. We need to take a break.”
Thistle said middle school students would suffer. There would not be space for proper physical education classes, there would be no space for lab experiments in science and technology rooms that now share space with the music program. He said there are three music rooms at the middle school, but no dedicated music rooms at the home schools.
“None of the staff see any way to provide daily band and orchestra to seventh- and eighth-graders,” Thistle said.
Parent Deanna Mallet asked the board to stop the process altogether. She wanted seventh and eighth grade in the middle school next year.
“It has not worked,” she said. She said many teachers don’t like the plan but are afraid they will get fired if they say something.
“You’re not listening,” Mallet said.
Another parent, Mindy Stewart, said it seems the board has a concept for moving to K-8, but not a plan to implement it.
“I have yet to find someone to support this concept as it is now,” she said.
Parents and school board members discussed concerns and questions until 11:25 p.m., and there may be another chance to talk about it again next week, when board members have tentatively planned another meeting Monday.