Just where do sixth graders belong - in the elementary schools or in the junior highs - that seems to be the sticking point among parents and community members who voiced their opinions at three recent forums held by the Central Kitsap School District.
Some in favor of keeping sixth-graders in elementary schools cited their innocence and childishness compared to junior high students — while some in favor of moving sixth-graders up cited the same development gap between sixth-graders and kindergarteners who currently share schools.
Those sentiments were voiced at three community forums on configuration that the district held recently. Administration met with parents, teachers, community members and a sprinkling of students at Klahowya, Olympic and Central Kitsap high schools.
The district has been looking into possibly changing the current configuration, due in part to declining enrollment throughout central Kitsap. The configuration process has been going on since 2007. It was shelved until the end of the 2010-11 school year.
The purpose of the forums was to solicit community feedback about upcoming grade shifts from school to school. Essentially, the forums revolved around the issue of moving ninth-graders from the junior highs to CKHS and Olympic and moving sixth-graders from elementary schools to junior highs.
The district's current configuration is kindergarten through sixth-grade in elementary schools, seventh- through ninth-grade in junior highs and 10th- through 12th-grade in high schools — except for Klahowya, which houses seventh- through 12th-grade in the same secondary school.
Community members in attendance were asked to filled out a survey sheet about the two questions and then discuss their answers with the rest of their table. At the end of each forum the tables elected a spokesman who shared their conversation with the rest of the room.
Moving ninth-grade to the district's high schools appeared to have little opposition from the community members gathered at the first two forums. It was the placement of sixth-grade that seemed like more of a split among those gathered.
Curriculum, transition time and an age-development gap were the three most commonly addressed concerns with sixth-grade placement. The majority of schools in the state operate with sixth- through eighth-grade in junior highs. Only a handful of districts in the state have the same configuration as Central Kitsap, and that number has been dwindling.
State curriculum and learning standards align to the common configuration of K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Some in attendance felt aligning Central Kitsap's schools with the state would benefit learning.
The discussion of development was an often recurring refrain for both sides of the argument.
Since sixth-graders are typically in a transitionary time, moving from children to young adults, their placement in either elementary schools or junior highs has been debated back and forth.
Superintendent Greg Lynch said from the verbal comments and informal polling the issue of sixth-grade placement appeared to be fairly evenly split.
Attendees were given a "pros and cons" sheet along with their survey, but many felt that not enough information was supplied to give an informed opinion.
"We want to see the data," one community member told administration. "It isn't here," he said, holding up the provided pro and con sheet.
Lynch responded by telling attendees that more information would be made available at a later date, after the school board has had time to look over recommendations. He hinted that forums might be held in the fall with more information on specific options.
"Once we have an option package then we can bring it back out to the community," he said.
The information from the forums will be gathered and organized by the district during May. The superintendent will make his recommendation to the board in June, according to the timeline.
After that, the order of events is less certain.
"It's hard to say definitely what we're going to do next," Lynch said. "The feeling is that the board will want more input at that point. Then I think you'll see more data attached to those questions."
No matter what decision is made, Lynch said, the district likely won't see any changes until the 2015-16 school year. Some possible changes could take as long as 2019 to occur.
Information is available on the district's website. To find it visitors need to look through the school board's meeting minutes and study session materials.