Forum: Snohomish district rushing plan to move 6th-grade classes

Moving the students from elementary to middle schools serves no purpose and will cause overcrowding.

By Rebecca McGinnis / Herald Forum

On Dec. 8, the Snohomish School District announced to parents and teachers its proposal to move sixth grade from elementary schools to middle schools by the 2025-26 school year. The school board vote on this proposal is scheduled for Feb. 28.

I acknowledge many school districts have sixth through eighth grades in middle school, and parents in those school districts might not understand the fuss here; however, in the Snohomish School District, the current model (K-6 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 has confirmed our elementary schools have capacity to meet future growth and that 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 sixth-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 seventh and eighth 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 and pick-up lanes, and four double-size portables (eight 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.

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 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 sixth grade to middle school beginning in the 2025-26 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.

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