The 48-person commission on sixth-grade alignment convened by the Shawnee Mission School District last year is scheduled to make its recommendations to the school board in May. But if that group ends up advising that the district shift sixth graders out of the elementary setting and up to the middle school level, don’t expect a change to occur overnight.
At his SuperChat question and answer session at Hocker Grove Middle School on Tuesday, Superintendent Jim Hinson said that if the commission recommended the shift, it would be at least two full school years before the changes could occur.
“If ultimately there’s a decision made to move sixth grade to the middle school level, that is a multiple year transitioning process,” Hinson said. “If that decision is made this summer, obviously nothing happens for the 17-18 school year. We would not be able to make that happen for the 18-19 school year. Maybe 19-20 — but again a lot has to occur to move over 2,000 students out of their elementary buildings.”
Hinson noted that the district would likely look to resuscitate two former junior high facilities that have housed administrative operations for the past several years, Broadmoor and Indian Creek, as middle school buildings if the board were to approve shifting sixth graders to the middle school level. Even with the addition of those two buildings as schools, the district would still face middle school capacity issues on the western side of the district. Hinson said the district would likely need to look to build a new middle school building to accommodate high-growth areas in Lenexa and Shawnee. But finding the 30 to 40 acre parcel of land needed for such a project is a major challenge.
“It remains very difficult to find property on the western side of our school district that would be suitable to build a middle school,” he said.
If the commission recommends the district keep its current alignment with sixth grade at the elementary level, the district will need to make major changes to the elementary school feeder boundaries to ensure elementaries have space to accommodate students. Boundary changes would still be necessary with the move to the middle school level, but they would be considerably more limited.
“If sixth grade stays at the elementary level, we will be facing significant elementary attendance area boundary changes,” Hinson said. “If sixth grade moves to the middle school level, we will still have some elementary attendance area boundary changes, but not nearly the number.”
Hinson said that he did not anticipate any of the proposed changes to affect the currently established high school attendance area boundaries. But, he said, if sixth graders move to the middle school level, it was likely that a single middle school may be split to feed into two different high schools.