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Jeannette moves 5th, 6th grades to middle school

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:50 p.m.

Beginning in the fall, Jeannette School District's fifth- and sixth-graders will be part of McKee Middle School.

The school board voted unanimously Monday night to approve the change.

Middle school principal Matt Jones, who prepared the necessary research to help the board make this decision, said the change does not mean that children in fifth and sixth grades will be close in proximity to the oldest middle school students.

Essentially, there will be a hallway of classes for fifth- and sixth-graders and a separate hallway of classrooms for the seventh- and eighth-graders. There will be teams of teachers for each age group and the “specials teachers,” such as music and art, will cross over between the grades.

Jones will be principal to all four grades, but he stressed that the two age groups will basically operate as separate entities.

Superintendent Matthew Hutcheson said there is a plan to have two separate bus routes as well, which will increase the bus runs, but is intended to be sure the younger students and older students remain separate on the ride home as well.

Jones said the fifth-grade teachers will begin to be “subject specific,” rather than continuing in the elementary tradition of having one teacher instruct students in all core subjects. Jones said he expects it to work well because the teachers already in those positions are already specialized in one subject.

“As a seventh-grade teacher, I'm looking forward to this move,” said board member Anita Mash. “I find that the sixth-grade year is not enough for a transition. Having one more year being subject specific will get them more used to it.”

Jones said he hopes it will enable teachers to challenge students more and to provide more opportunities for advanced lessons.

“The hope is to increase the rigor for the kids; To push them further than we have pushed them before,” said Jones.

During Monday's in-service day, Jones took some time to talk to the fifth- and sixth-grade teachers about the transition and he plans to hold a public meeting to talk to parents about the changes.

A date for the public forum hasn't been set yet, but Jones said it will give him and some of the teachers involved an opportunity to address parent concerns and to explain why the changes are being made.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

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