Sixth grade students in Brooklyn Center Community Schools will attend their classes in the secondary school building starting in fall 2013.
The Board of Education unanimously approved changing the enrollment at Earle Brown Elementary School to be only students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade at its meeting Jan. 14.
Currently, the district is halfway through a pilot program with some of the sixth-grade students spending their day in a renovated wing of the secondary building.
The pilot program was years in the making to create a middle school model with sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students together. As of April 2012 the secondary building had 700 students in seventh through 12th grade and Earle Brown Elementary had more than 1,000 students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
The move of sixth grade to the secondary school building could help address space issues at Earle Brown Elementary as well as bring all the middle-school age students together.
Earle Brown Elementary School Principal Jane Ellis said there would be an additional 96 students in seventh grade at the secondary building and about 120 students in sixth grade when the program starts in the fall.
Planning on the best use for the additional space at the elementary school as well as the change at the secondary building is underway.
“We really need to systemically plan about how we want to grow internally,” Ellis said. “We want to do a strong recruitment effort on first through fifth grade,” she said.
There will be three classrooms open due to the transfer of sixth-grade students to the secondary building, she said.
Pilot program evaluation
District staff have been evaluating the progress of the sixth-grade pilot program since the beginning of the school year.
Families of sixth-grade students in the pilot program and fifth-grade students who could come to the secondary building in the fall were asked to complete surveys about the program.
There haven’t been any sixth-grade students who switched back to Earle Brown Elementary School and some even transferred to the secondary building halfway through the year, Ellis said.
In December, staff held a tour for fifth-grade students and their families to see the sixth-grade space.
Participants received a tour of the sixth-grade classrooms as well as arts and athletics facilities, said Kevin Furst, the International Baccalaureate and Middle Years Program coordinator.
Young students also had the opportunity to talk with juniors and seniors about attending middle school in the same building, Furst said.
“They asked about lunch (and) recess to anything like ‘am I going to be able to find my class and is it scary?’”
Seeing the space their children would attend school in helped parents too, Ellis said.
Space and staff
Last summer, the district used $350,000 in capital facilities bonds to fund creating a designated space for the sixth-grade students.
There are currently 14 classrooms including two science labs with space for lectures and demonstrations.
Teachers at the high school licensed to teach sixth grade have been working in the pilot program.
District administration will spend the next several months finalizing plans for additional teachers and space to have a full sixth grade enrollment in the secondary building.
The board and staff also discussed using separate names for the middle school and high school portions of the building.
Board of Education members said they approved the sixth-grade transfer because of the success of the pilot program.
“I think they’ve done the things asked of them,” said boardmember John Solomon.
Solomon asked the school staff about the academic progress of students in sixth grade who have already transferred to the secondary building.
“They are feeling it is going well,” said Principal Jean Sorensen. “When you walk into a sixth-grade classroom they are so eager and proud,” Sorensen said.
Contact Katy Zillmer at firstname.lastname@example.org