Clark-Shawnee Local Schools will move their seventh and eighth grade into Shawnee High School next year.
“This is going to be an upgrade for our middle school students,” Superintendent Gregg Morris said.
The seventh and eight grade currently go to school in the districts three elementary schools: Reid, Possum and Rockway. The schools are old and crowded, Morris said, and the change will put older students in a better learning environment.
“We can better utilize our staff and we can give students more opportunities in the high school and give them a jump start.”
A tour given by Morris to the board of education during a special school board meeting indicated the the facilities are being prepared for the transition. While planning is still taking place, many classrooms have already been designated for specific classes and grade levels.
“There will be two schools operating in the building,” Morris said.
School board members said during the tour that overall they were pleased with the progress. They also said they felt the administration had done a good job separating the high school from the new middle school.
Board members and Morris said during the tour that some parents in the community had alerted the district that they are concerned about high school students and middle school students being too close together. While there will be no physical barrier between the two schools, many of the core classes middle school students take will be on one side to the building while the high school students will stay on the other side of the building.
But there will be times where the two group of students share space, Morris said.
“Some middle school kids that qualify will be able to take some high school courses,” he said.
Also, classes like art and music will be held in one room at the same so the older students can help teach and mentor the younger teens — which in turn will help the high school students learn and mature officials said.
However, there are still some concerns in the community about it. Parents outside Reid School had mixed feelings about moving the grades to the high school.
“I personally don’t think it’s good only because of the maturity level,” said Lisa Carmes, a parent in the district. “I just think it is too soon,”
She said she can see issues when it comes to younger teens trying to be like their older peers.
“Influence by older children that younger children are not ready yet,” Carmes said. “Hopefully it’s good influence but you never know”
Iesha Vanover, also a parent in the district, said she likes the idea of moving students away from the elementary schools whenever possible.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” she said. “It will be a lot better for the schools. Right now we don’t have much in the elementary schools and it can be really tough.”
Clark-Shawnee is asking voters to pass a bond issue this May that would allow them to build a new elementary school for all students in the district and renovate Shawnee High School to better serve its students. The seventh and eighth graders will stay in the high school regardless, but Morris said if the bond passes the school will be able to make larger changes that will help the students.
“While this facility is going to be a major improvement for middle school kids we are doing basic things,” He said. “If we are fortunate to renovate we will be able to do larger improvements. This is a very base level plan until we are able to renovate.”
Voters denied the same bond issue in November.