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School District survey results for 9th grade move

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The Emery County School District Board of Education has been conducting a study through collecting and reviewing survey data in relation to a proposed reconfiguration of schools, as well as data related to other impacts involved in such a reconfiguration. The proposed change being studied would involve moving the ninth grades from what are currently San Rafael Jr. High School and Canyon View Jr. High School to Emery High School and the sixth grades from Castle Dale Elementary, Cottonwood Elementary, Ferron Elementary, Cleveland Elementary and Huntington Elementary to what would become San Rafael Middle School and Canyon View Middle School. After reviewing the data collected to this point, the Board of Education has decided to release the results of the two surveys that were conducted. The surveys included input from parents, community members, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders.
There were 478 parents and community members who responded to the survey, of which 78 percent had children currently enrolled in at least one of the Emery District Schools with 22 percent having no children currently in school.
Of the 478 respondents 81 percent responded that they would favor moving 9th grade to Emery High School with 19 percent opposed. Those favoring moving ninth grade students to Emery High School cited academic advantages and course offerings available, as well as the added extracurricular and sports opportunities, as their primary reasons of support. Those opposed to the move of ninth grade cited immaturity of 9th graders as their primary reason as well as concerns of overcrowding at the high school.
When responding to the question of moving sixth grade to a middle school or leaving sixth grade in the elementary schools, 58 percent favored moving sixth to the middle school, with 42 percent wanting them left at the elementary. Those favoring the move of sixth grade to a middle school cited concerns that the students were currently too mature for elementary along with academic advantages and choices. They also cited sports participation as well. Those opposed to moving sixth grade cited immaturity as the most common reason.
A survey was also made available to all educators (teachers, administrators, counselors, specialists, etc.). There were 94 educators that responded to the survey. Of the 94 educators that responded, 52 percent were elementary educators, 23 percent were jr. high educators and 25 percent were high school educators. The survey results showed that 94 percent of educators favored moving ninth grade to Emery High School, while 6 percent opposed the move. Those educators that favored moving ninth grade to Emery High School overwhelmingly cited academic and expanded course offerings and greater involvement in extracurricular clubs, music, CTE, theater, etc. as their reason for support. Those opposed to moving ninth grade to Emery High School cited student emotional, mental and social immaturity as well as concern over staffing impacts.
When responding to the question of moving sixth grade to a middle school, 73 percent of educators favored moving 6th grade to a middle school, with 27 percent of educators wanting them left in elementary schools. Those educators that favored moving sixth grade to a middle school cited a closer alignment of state curriculum structure, maturity of sixth graders, along with greater academic opportunities. They also cited the maturity of sixth graders being closer to that of seventh and eighth grade students than with elementary ages, and that most school districts our size have sixth-eighth grade middle schools. Those educators opposed to moving sixth grade to a middle school cited that sixth graders are not mature enough to be with seventh and eighth grade students.
The Board has also been reviewing, and continues to review, the data collected on the impacts of reconfiguration of schools in relation to staffing patterns, staff licensure and endorsements, funding impacts, facility needs, academic and extracurricular implications, transportation, school size impacts, input from counselors and administrators on transition timelines required for scheduling and staffing, schedule configuration options, graduation requirements, etc. At this point the Board’s study has been focused on the premise that no schools would be closed due to any possible reconfiguration plan.
Superintendent Sitterud indicates that, “In my discussions with individual Board members, I believe that they are taking the input they have received on this important issue very seriously, and with the significant support that exists for making a transition to a reconfigured school system, the Board is heavily leaning toward approval of moving ninth and sixth grades beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. Board members feel this extra year is needed to address all of the issues, especially those involving staffing, facilities preparation, temporary classroom placement at Emery High School, and the extreme complexity the scheduling of students will require, since the initial move will require four grade levels to be moved at the same time, not just two.
“The first year of this transition would not only involve the movement of sixth and ninth grade students who would already be scheduled to move to seventh grade and 10th grade, but it would also include moving the fifth and eighth grade students who would typically be moving to sixth and ninth grades at the same time. The additional year would also give the District the time necessary to work out the many details that need to be addressed in order for a smooth transition to be made. This timeline would allow parents, teachers and administrators time to prepare students for the transition. I firmly believe that the Board will want to get it right the first time and not make it a difficult transition for the students.”
Superintendent Sitterud also points out that he feels this has been a difficult and challenging, yet insightful study. Individual board members have commented on how much they have learned from this experience and that they have appreciated the sincere input from all who have and continue to contribute insight on this important issue. Most of the districts that were visited as part of the study took two years to implement the transition. Superintendent Sitterud also states that, “I believe the Board is ready to make this decision and move ahead with a commitment to student success.”

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