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What about the ninth- graders?

The Bremerton School District’s ninth-graders are in limbo. While they will technically be classified as high school students next year, they likely will not attend Bremerton High School.

The district’s ninth-graders now attend Bremerton Junior High School on Wheaton Way and are classified as junior high school students. The school district is making the classification change in the next academic year to let the students know that no matter where they attend school, the ninth-grade counts toward high school graduation credits and toward college admission, said district spokesperson Joan Dingfield.

BHS Principal Eric Hogan told the district’s board of directors Tuesday night during a study session he believes the ninth-graders belong at the high school but there is not enough room at Bremerton High School to house an influx of more than 400 freshmen.

When the new BHS opened in 1998, the school was for ninth- to 12th-graders. Ninth-graders attended the school until 1992. According to enrollment statistics from those five years, full-time student enrollment fluctuated from between 1,308 students in 1988 to 1,470 in 1991, Hogan said. Hogan took the enrollment numbers from the month of October in each year, which historically has higher enrollment numbers than any other month in the academic year.

When the high school housed four grades, it took careful logistical planning for the students, teachers and faculty to fit into the building. A lot of the teachers were “floaters,” or had to move classrooms throughout the day because there weren’t enough classrooms for each teacher to have their own.

This is one of the qualifiers in Hogan’s explanation to the board that the high school does not have enough room for the freshmen next year.

Hogan also told the board members if the school had to come create new classrooms to accommodate the freshmen, there would be some sacrifices involved. In all, there are nine classrooms that aren’t used all six class period that could be converted from their current use to regular classrooms:

l A food lab could be used as a specialty classroom.

l A multi-handicapped room would be converted to a new classroom, but the district would have to find another classroom for the students, some of whom are potentially violent.

l The school’s Associated Student Body office could be converted into a classroom, but the ASB equipment would have to be stored somewhere else and it may send a bad message to the students to close the ASB room “at a time when we are telling them their leadership is more crucial than ever,” Hogan said.

l The school’s journalism/yearbook room could be used as a classroom. It is currently used one period during the day and after school. If the room is converted to a classroom, the school would have to find another space for the journalism/yearbook staff’s computers.

l The Industrial Quality Kitchen, which is used by Knights Catering (a pre-vocational program), could be used as a classroom. The program, however, is a legally mandated program, so the program would have to find a new home on campus.

l One room, which is used as a meeting room, could be used as a classroom for 15 children.

l One room is used for the athletic trainer’s classroom and is used two periods out of six.

If those changes were made, it would still only create space for about half the freshman class, Hogan said. Even if the changes were implemented, there would be a lot of “floating” teachers, and every teacher would have to leave their classroom during their prep period so another teacher could use it.

As it is now, the only place in the school teachers could go during their prep period would be the faculty lounge.

The idea of roaming is not a popular one among teachers, said Board Member Pat Jones. When speaking with teachers, the term “float” made them “float through the roof,” Jones said.

Some teachers who were close to retirement told Jones that rather than be floaters, they would retire.

In addition to additional classrooms, if the ninth-graders were moved up to BHS next year, there are several other changes that would be necessary to accommodate them, Hogan said.

In addition to classroom space, more administrative staff would need to be created for the support staff the freshmen would require — perhaps an additional vice principal and/or school counselor.

Another consideration for freshmen is that they tend to “generate more attention” than the other grades, Hogan said, so they need faculty support.

Upon hearing the suggestion the freshmen may require an additional vice principal, School Board Member DeWayne Boyd asked Hogan if his current vice principals are “fully employed.”

In a light moment, Hogan nodded his head yes, then softly banged his head on the table in front of him to demonstrate how “fully employed” the vice principals are.

As for portable classrooms being used to help alleviate space issues, portables are expensive, said Kevin Ferguson, the district finance director. He estimated a new double-wide costs $135,000 for purchase and placement, while a used one costs about $100,000.

More students also would require more computers, which is a problem at the current school. When the building was being planned, the planners “were not very forward-thinking,” said Merilee Hansen, who served as the principal of BHS when it served four grades. “They didn’t really realize that computers were going to be so, so important.”

As a result, before ninth-graders come on board, the school will need another computer lab. The BHS currently has one computer lab that teachers are able to use with their students.

Another logistical consideration for moving the ninth-graders to the high school would be that a fourth lunch period would need to be added.

Right now, no decision has been made whether to move the ninth-graders to the high school or leave them at the junior high school.

The board also may consider closing Naval Avenue Elementary School and turning it into a ninth-grade academy.

The district is planning to make a decision in the next month to allow teachers and parents time to plan for next year.

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