No matter what decision is made about the future of sixth grade students in the Shawnee Mission, the school district is going to need more schools.
Dr. Rick Atha, assistant superintendent for instructional support, told dozens of parents gathered at Indian Hills Middle School Thursday that the district is growing for the first time since 1992. Atha was leading off the third in a series of community forums to get input on the possibility of moving Shawnee Mission sixth graders from elementary schools to middle schools.
“If we leave sixth graders in (the current buildings), we will need to build more elementaries,” Atha said. “If we move them, we will need more middle schools.”
Decisions in the past have been driven by facilities, Atha said. “This time what you think is best for our sixth graders (will drive the decision). Either way, we will build.
The task force exploring the possible change from the current configuration has created presentations on five areas for consideration including activities/athletics, curriculum, facilities, licensure/staffing and social/emotional. The slides for the presentations are online.
The task force has identified four scenarios that range from sixth-graders remaining in place to moving into existing middle schools. One option renovates the Broadmoor and Indian Creek buildings to add them as middle schools. The last option goes one step further and adds an additional new middle school as well as the two renovated facilities.
Crestview principal John Bartel presented enrollment projections that showed the current middle schools cannot handle all of the current sixth graders. Many of the options could result in boundary changes and some could mean split feeder patterns, he said. The earliest a change could be made is the 2018-19 school year, Bartel said, and even that would be difficult. He said some current elementary schools are already struggling with capacity issues.
Dr. David Conrady, principal at Indian Woods, outlined some of the expanded curriculum offerings that would be available to sixth graders. He said there is little research to showing a difference in achievement between the two options.
Neighboring school districts put sixth graders in the middle school. Atha said parents have continued to ask why Shawnee Mission is different from the other districts. That led to the task force to explore the possibility of a change.