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home : news : news Sunday, November 19, 2017

6/29/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Northeast moving sixth grade to middle school in 2014

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

Sixth grade in the Northeast Community School District will move from the elementary building to the middle school in 2014 due to lack of space at the current facility, under a plan presented to the school board June 18.

The elementary school was built with 21 classrooms to hold three sections of grades K-6, but it will be at capacity for the upcoming school year, and the district is projecting a need for 22 classrooms the following school year, elementary principal Diane Schumacher told the school board.

"So we are chock full with those 21 rooms," Schumacher explained.

Although the elementary has only two sections of third, fourth and sixth grade, the district has added two preschool classrooms and a transitional kindergarten class, filling all 21 classrooms.

"We'll make it through this year, but we're going to run out of space next year," Schumacher said

The district could meet a projected need of 22 classrooms for the 2014/15 school year by putting art on a cart, Schumacher said, but special education classes already have been pushed into smaller rooms, the speech classroom is a converted closet and band is held in the art room.

In addition, there have been discussions about offering a preschool or daycare program for 3-year-olds, but there is no space to put the students.

Instead of putting art on a cart, the plan is to move sixth-grade students to the middle school in the fall of 2014 and begin preparing students and parents for the transition now.

Secondary schools principal Alicia Christiansen said parents are bound to have concerns about having sixth graders in the same building as high school seniors, but she is confident those concerns can be addressed by keeping the middle and high school schedules separate, so older and younger students don't pass between classes at the same time.

"If we can keep it separated so it's one roof but operates as two buildings, I think that will put a lot of people at ease," Christiansen said.

"I always tell people they're together on the bus for a lot longer, with a lot less supervision," commented board president Chuck Corr.

Christiansen said her two biggest concerns are how to prepare staff for the change and how to make the transition as seamless as possible for students.

Guidance counselor Renee Friedrichsen will assist in the transition, and Friedrichsen said she's planning a mass email to the parents of fifth-grade students "to start the conversation with the community" and informational meetings that will be held along with parent-teacher conferences.

Data show there are just 163 elementary schools with grades K-6 in Iowa, but 364 elementary schools that end in grade 5. There are 143 middle schools grades 6-8, compared to just 39 with grades 7-8.

"So we're actually becoming more normal, more like other districts across the state," Schumacher said.

The change also could provide some educational benefits by allowing for more cross-curricular projects, Christiansen said.

It will make for better curriculum planning since grades 6-8 already are grouped together in the state and national common core standards and the Iowa Assessments, Schumacher said, and could lead to better test scores.

"I do wonder when I see our sixth-grade scores if we don't have enough rigor because of having that in an elementary setting," Schumacher said.

Board member Rich Krogmann said he likes the concept and advised administrators to stay focused and provide information to the community when working out details of the transition.

Board member Mark Neblung asked about the possibility of running out of rooms at the secondary school.

Christiansen said the facility has two spare rooms from computer labs that were converted to classrooms when the district adopted its laptop program and will have even more space when the facility project adds four science rooms and a multipurpose room.

"I'm working with 7-8 new rooms as it is," she stated.

Christiansen said the timing of the construction project is a concern since the science rooms aren't expected to be ready for the transition in the fall of 2014, "but we could make it work temporarily for one semester."

Superintendent Jim Cox said he doesn't expect the public to oppose the change, but he's glad building principals are getting the word out early.

"I don't think it's going to be a problem, but I think they're right to start (the discussion) in August," he said.

The Northeast board will take formal action on the proposal at its July meeting.

Grading scale set

for secondary school

A standard grading scale has been established for Northeast middle and high school, replacing a recommended grading scale that many teachers chose not to follow.

Christiansen said she investigated after being questioned by parents about differences in the grading scales being used and found the majority of teachers were using a 10-point scale and not the district's recommended scale, which set an "A" at 94-100 percent, a "B" at 87-93 percent, a "C" at 78-86 percent and a "D" at 69-77 percent.

To establish consistency and fairness, the schools have adopted a common scale of 90-100 percent for an "A," 80-89 percent for a "B," 70-79 percent for a "C," and 60-69 percent for a "D."

"It's better for kids, and it's better for teachers," Christiansen said.

The grading scale was one of several changes in the student handbook Christiansen outlined.

Other changes include clarifying the truancy policy to state a student cannot miss more than 20 days of class in a school year, adding the state definition of bullying to the bullying/harassment policy and adding information about the ALICE training program.

A change in the elementary student handbook regarding custody disputes requires parents to provide written documentation of any custodial agreements that impact the school and prevents staff members from testifying or providing information for a custody hearing unless subpoenaed.

Resignations and appointments

The board approved appointments to fill four teaching positions and six coaching/advisor positions and also accepted two resignations.

The board approved the appointment of Diana Kruse as transitional kindergarten teacher, Alec Anderson as middle school social studies teacher, Maggie Reuter as level 3 special education teacher and Bryan Telgenhoff as high school social studies teacher.

The coaching appointments were Darla Hasken as FBLA advisor, Alec Anderson as head middle school football coach, Brooke Puckett as volunteer softball coach, Jerad Block as 50 percent strength and conditioning supervisor, and Peter Tanzillo as 50 percent strength and conditioning supervisor, head middle school girls track coach and freshmen girls basketball coach.

Tori Creger was appointed administrative assistant at the high school.

Resignations were from Michelle Landa as TAG teacher and Sarah Schoon as boys soccer coach.

Other business

In other business, the board:

•Approved depositing $7.3 million in bond proceeds at Great Western Bank of Clive at an interest rate of .15 percent.

•Awarded the contract for propane to AgVantage FS for $1.059 per transport load.

•Awarded the bread contract to Bimbo Bakeries (Earthgrains) of Dubuque.

•Awarded the milk contract to Anderson/Erickson Dairy.

•Approved renewal of a three-year agreement with Juvenile Court Services for the at-risk coordinator/juvenile officer position. The state will pay $12,261 toward the position, and the district will pay the remaining $13,461.

•Approved the purchase of AESOP software for managing substitute teachers at a cost of $2,500 with an annual cost of $4,000.

•Discussed purchasing time clock software but tabled action to investigate additional software options.

•Approved an agreement with the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency for the home school assistance program. Six students in the district participate in home schooling, Cox said.

•Approved open enrollment into the district for four students from Clinton Community Schools.

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