Central sixth-grade student move met with mixed reviews

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls explains to parents of Central Elementary students the reason behind the proposal to move the sixth grade to Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School.

DUBBERLY — Attendees at a community meeting regarding moving the sixth grade from Central Elementary to Lakeside Jr./Sr. High School were in favor of it for the most part, however, some had concerns about an array of issues.

Rachel Redding, the mother of a fifth-grader at Central, said her son would do well at Lakeside. He plays baseball, and going to Lakeside would open his options in athletics, she said.

dsc_0647“He’s always wanted to play for Lakeside, so if he can play baseball, that’s what he wants to do,” she said. “He’s more mature, so I feel like he should be with the junior high. He’s always made the principal’s list, so I don’t think academics will be a problem.”

On the flip side, the grandmother of a fifth-grade student who asked not to be named, said her grandson is not ready to make such a big move. Coming from a broken home, she feels he’s not mature enough to take such a big step. He’s short in stature for his age, she said, and she said he would have a hard time adjusting.

“He’s just not ready,” she said. “It’s going to cause him problems.”

Several had concerns about maturity levels, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls addressed them, saying studies show sixth-graders tend to mature faster and rise to the challenge of being around their older peers. Also, the Louisiana Department of Education is now grouping the sixth grade curriculum in with junior high levels, he said.

Central sixth grade math teacher Bonnie Blake said she’s been teaching sixth grade for 19 of her 21 years of teaching and has taught at schools where sixth grade was on the elementary level and where they were on the junior high level.

“It is a positive move,” she said. “It is a positive move for the teachers as far as our collaboration that we do to make sure that we are preparing our students for the next grade. It’s a good move for the students; I really feel like they will rise to the occasion. We will keep them very isolated, it’s not like we’re going to release them with the older students.”

Lakeside Principal Denny Finley said the junior high students will be isolated from the high schoolers with the exception of busses and breakfast.

“In the past we’ve tried allowing seventh and eighth grade to go out into the commons area with the high school, and we’ve made the junior high go to the junior high gym, which isolates them from the high school,” he said. “Personally, I think isolating them from the high school will be the way to go once sixth grade gets there, because there will be too many kids in the commons area.”

Other concerns were around the construction timeline. According to one given by Architect Perry Watson, the project would begin no later than the end of February 2017 with a target completion date of August 2017.

With such a short timeframe, some parents were worried the renovations at Lakeside would not be complete in time. Rawls said even if they had to push the completion date back a week or two, he still wants to make sure students are moving in by the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.

Additions will consist of three additional classrooms and restrooms in the design and profile of the original building. The entire project will cost about $660,000, which will come from the Consolidated District 3 Fund.

The school board will consider advertising for bids Monday.

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