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Moving fifth-graders to MAMS ruled out as option to handle district growth

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/11/20

What about moving fifth-graders to Middletown Area Middle School?

This suggestion was proposed during a January Middletown Area School District school board meeting where members discussed what …

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Moving fifth-graders to MAMS ruled out as option to handle district growth

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What about moving fifth-graders to Middletown Area Middle School?

This suggestion was proposed during a January Middletown Area School District school board meeting where members discussed what the district should do with its elementary schools, facing a need for renovations at Kunkel and Fink and a projected enrollment increase.

“So, if you do the math, it makes it look at face value that this is an easy slam dunk. You just put those kids in there and all is well, but that’s why we had to get in the weeds because it’s not that simple,” MASD Superintendent Lori Suski said during a Feb. 4 board meeting.

Assistant to the Superintendent Chelton Hunter said moving fifth grade to MAMS would max out the capacity of the building.

Plus, Suski said it would displace special education students at the school, and more staff would have to be hired to cover the creative arts and special education.

“Your fifth-graders too are going to have to mature a year ahead of time because now they don’t have a recess to run off the extra energy and different things like that,”  board member Melvin Fager Jr. said.

The school has a capacity of 932 students, and Suski said the middle school is designed for sixth, seventh and eighth grades to have nine classrooms each.

Currently, each grade level occupies about seven classrooms.

Hunter said the incoming fifth-grade class this fall would be made up of 201 students and need nine classrooms. Adding these students would increase the total school enrollment to 893 students (219 sixth-graders, 249 seventh-graders and 224 eighth-graders).

Hunter said moving fifth grade would require teachers and some staff to move to different sections of the building.

The school would be at 90 percent capacity, and in coming years, that capacity is projected to increase to 95 percent, Suski said.

“[Architects Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates] believe that educationally once you hit 90, you really start to impact education because kids are, as you said, kind of squeezed into these spaces, and we know that middle-schoolers need a lot of space to move about and that it’s not sometimes a good idea to have so many all together, clustered in one area,” Suski said.

The district has been discussing redoing MAMS’ schedule, which might include hiring additional staff. If fifth grade is added, Hunter said the new staff members wouldn’t have full-sized classrooms, and would lack space to do some of the support work that they do at the middle school.

What about the creative arts? Suski said elementary physical education, art, music and library teachers would have to be “imported” up to the middle school.

“That’s never going to fly in terms of coordination of schedules,” Suski said.

The district would have to hire at least four new teachers to cover the creative arts and for special education, she said. Plus, there’s only one art room, gym and music room at MAMS, which Suski said also would be an issue.

Many of the district’s special education students at MAMS would be displaced. Director of Special Education Krystal Palmer said there are regulations on how many square feet per student is needed in a classroom and where the classrooms are located.