Columbus could cut out middle schools

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Middle schools could be a thing of the past for Columbus City Schools.

The school board heard a report and recommendations Dec. 18 to have students attend classes in buildings for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, and then seventh through twelfth grade.

The report came from Michelle Mills, chief executive officer of St. Stephens Community House and Douglas Lumpkin, executive director of Job and Family Services, both members of the Linden Education Task Force.

This task force was formed out of the board’s desire to communicate with the Linden community about the declining enrollment for Linden area schools.

One of the results of that report is the proposal to eliminate middle schools in Linden area schools. If this reconfiguration is a success, it will be a pilot program for all other Columbus schools.

Superintendent Gene Harris said the reason for considering Linden schools is due to the decrease in enrollment and population in that area.

"The decline has called for closure of three elementary schools and one middle school, and so we knew we needed to have a conversation with the community and develop a new charge," said Harris.

The task force held several focus groups with community members that included students, parents and the community at large. In addition, the task force had surveys taken by both outside and inside sources, they researched high-performing schools and they reviewed educational "best practices."  

Jeff Warner, district spokesman, said the district is working hard to ensure it meets the 90 percent graduation rate by 2012 and also keep up with the requirements of the Ohio CORE program, a program passed by the Ohio legislature. This program raises the bar in the areas of math and science, so CCS’s hope is that by eliminating middle schools the district will be able to better prepare students for those academic requirements.

"It would give our sixth and seventh-graders access to higher level math and science courses, to foreign language courses and hopefully, still keep them in their own community in school choice programs," said Warner.

Warner said the sixth and seventh-graders do not have enough staff to provide the kind of teaching they need to compete with other students, and Warner said the kindergarten-6 and 7-12 grades would likely still be held on the same campus, if not in the same buildings.

Harris said starting with the class of 2014, students will have to have the Ohio CORE to gain admittance into almost all but three of Ohio’s state universities. The required amount of units for math has gone up to four from three units and all science courses will be laboratory based. The required amount of units for math has gone up to four from three units and all science courses will be laboratory based.

"We must prepare every student we serve to succeed. Our students do not just compete against students from Gahanna, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, but also against students from Berlin, Tokyo and New Delhi for spots in universities and later, for careers," said Harris.

Warner said these changes will begin next year strictly with elementary school and then the following year with the high school.

"The sixth grade would remain at the middle school and the following year, we’d move them all and high school would start," said Warner.

Harris said this proposal would allow for better utilization of staff and school buildings, reduce the district’s building operations costs and over time, reduce bus transportation costs.

"Columbus City Schools must use all available resources in the most effective and efficient manner to provide a state-of-the-art education system for all our students to succeed. This system reconfiguration and design proposal is to be considered as a means of preparing the students of Columbus City Schools to be competitive in the 21st  century in our global economy," said Warner.

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