March 23, 2013 in Washington Voices

East Farms has new look as it transitions to K-8 school

By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Chloe Chalfant, 13, a seventh-grader a East Farms, raises her hand during math class on March 6.
(Full-size photo)

East Farms diary

About this series

This school year, we are spending time at East Farms STEAM Magnet School in the East Valley School District as it makes the transition from a traditional K-5 elementary school to a STEAM Magnet School serving students through the seventh grade. Next school year, the transformation will be complete, as each elementary school in the district will be K-8, with middle schoolers traveling to the Middle Level Learning Center in the afternoons.

At East Farms STEAM Magnet School, students wrapped up their second trimester last week. They have been enjoying special programs revolving around science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), over the school year and during the second trimester, talked about what makes something fit in.

As the East Valley School District continues to transition to a K-8 school system, parents worry about discipline, and the potential for older students picking on the younger ones. But according to staff, that hasn’t been the case so far.

Seventh-graders at East Farms arrive before the younger students. Their day starts at 7:50 a.m., while the younger students don’t start until 9:10 a.m.

They also spend their day in a portable classroom, away from the hallways of the younger students.

“It’s so isolated,” said seventh-grade English and social studies teacher Chris Russell.

Russell said he and Angie Bordwell, who teaches seventh-grade math and science, generally deal with discipline in the classroom, rather than send students to the office.

The teachers said if students break the rules in class, they can expect to stay behind as their classmates get on the bus for the middle school just before lunch.

“It’s such a privilege for these guys to go to the middle school,” Bordwell said. “They love that.”

Principal Tammy Fuller said she has been dealing with the typical discipline issues she deals with every year.

“Are we perfect? No,” she said.

She has found that the older students pick on each other, rather than picking on the younger students. She also said the older students don’t generally mix with the younger ones.

She said she documents each time she has a conversation about discipline with a student.

“I use it as a communication tool (with the parents),” she said. She also said she tries to be creative when it comes to discipline, seeking to find out why the students break the rules. She looks at each situation with each student differently.

“I think there is more of an attempt to correct the behavior here,” said fifth-grade teacher Tessa Pratt, a former Mountain View Middle School teacher. She said she feels teachers are encouraged to work with the students and find the root of their behavior.

“I think really, that’s the core,” Pratt said, fixing the problem so it doesn’t happen again.

Pratt said she has noticed the older students act better when they know a younger student is nearby.

“Discipline is about changing behavior, not using a hammer,” Fuller said. “We’re trying everything we can.”

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