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Close the intermediate school? What do students think?

Have you ever wondered how school districts separate the grades into the different school buildings?

In Pagosa Springs, the elementary school includes grades K-four, the intermediate school includes grades five and six, the junior high has grades seven and eight, and the high school includes grades nine-12.

However, with all of the budget cuts, the school district faced the option of closing the intermediate school. This would have meant that fifth-graders would be sent back to the elementary school, while the sixth-graders would move up to the junior high building.

Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders expressed what they thought about the possibility of the school district closing the intermediate school.

Of the students interviewed, most did not like the idea.

Kasey Perea, a sixth-grade student replied, “I don’t think it would be a good mix, because the fifth- and sixth-graders are still young and then if they combined with the seventh- and eighth-graders it would not be good.”

Fifth-grade student Josh Kuening answered, “I think it would be a bad idea, because I wouldn’t like it if I was with the seventh- and eighth-graders.”

Fourth-grader Kayla Nasralla responded, “I kind of want to move up to the intermediate school first.”

Liam Doctor, a fourth-grader, replied, “I wouldn’t like it, because I am ready to move to a new building.”

Abbey Johnson, a fifth-grader, answered, “I would feel bad because it is a historic building to this town. It would also mean that some teachers would get laid off, and we would all be crammed into other schools.”

Fifth-grader Kaitlyn Hunt responded, “I would feel bad because all of the fourth-graders are looking forward to going to a new school, and next year I will be in sixth grade.”

Some students, however, liked the idea.

Andrea Esquivel, a fifth-grader, answered, “I would like it, because I don’t like the intermediate school.”

A study titled “Grade Span Configuration: Who Goes Where?,” written by the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, determined that all of the configurations of grade separation have both positives and negatives. However, several topics should be considered before changing to a different separation plan. Some of these topics to be considered are: “number of students, transportation spending, socioeconomic background of the student population, school system goals for student achievement, effects on other schools, and number of transitions for affected students, school building design, and effects on parent involvement.”

According to the Research in Middle Level Education Foundation, the most popular middle school grade configuration is combining grades six through eight in one school. The number of schools in the United States that choose the configuration six-eight is continuing to grow. According to the National School Board Associations Council of Urban Boards of Education, between 1990 and 2000 only 5 percent of schools had a configuration of grades seven through nine while sixth- through eighth-grade configurations dominated the school systems. Although it can be debated that some configurations are better than others, there is no conclusive evidence that one arrangement over another strongly affects a student.

While there seems to be no strong evidence that choosing to close Pagosa Springs Intermediate School would have had a negative effect on our students, many parents and teachers were extremely passionate about their desire to keep the school building open. Parents in particular seemed upset about their children being thrust into an older age group. The Saline School District in Ann Arbor, Mich., solved this problem by keeping the sixth-grade students in a separate area of the school, and giving them their own lunch hour and recess. The intermediate school already follows this format because the fifth and sixth grades are both in the junior high school for their own lunch hour, elective classes and library time.

Those who did not want the different configuration in our local school district are no doubt pleased with a Tuesday school board decision not to close the intermediate school.