Examining the middle school realignment a year later
The first year of the middle school grade realignment has come to a close.
The realignment moved all sixth- and seventh-graders to Ecker Hill International Middle School, while ninth-graders from the high school moved to Treasure Mountain International School with the eighth-graders.
Ecker Hill Principal Greg Proffit said the year was, "very uneventful," in terms of the realignment. Much of this was due to the planning that took place in advance. Principal of Treasure Mountain, Bob O’Connor concurred.
"We had a very large committee that spent a number of years planning on it," he said, adding that because of this they encountered very few problems.
Proffit explained the realignment was initially considered because of concerns about overcrowding at Park City High School.
Prior to the realignment Proffit said Ecker Hill had approximately 400 students per year, this year with sixth and seventh graders the school closed at 684.
"The way we keep it sane at the student levels is through academic teams," Proffit said.
Academic teams are student groups clustered together that are assigned the same teachers for certain subjects. Proffit compared them to the individual houses in Harry Potter: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
"The idea is to take a big population of students, and by breaking them out into academic teams it doesn’t feel so overwhelming," Proffit said.
He added that more students has not meant an increase in class sizes.
"In terms of the class sizes, the staffing ratio (of 23:1) remains the same for the regular core classes," Proffit said.
The larger numbers at the school have also meant an increased workload when it comes time to do registration, parent-teacher conferences and grades, but Proffit said his staff and students have managed it well.
The advantages to having more students in the school, Proffit said, include being able to offer a wider variety of classes because there is more interest in different subjects.
"Next year we’ll run a full year drama class, we hadn’t been able to do that before with seventh graders," he said.
After seventh-grade, the students transition to Treasure Mountain International Middle School, where they are no longer put in academic teams.
"My own bias is that academic teaming is the way to go," Proffit said, adding that he can see advantages and disadvantages to both.
O’Connor said having it this way is more beneficial to students.
"We had that kind of structure here as a middle school prior to the alignment." O’Connor said. "Kids had a bigger struggle with that in ninth grade, I think the eight, nine model we have here helps the kids transition."
He added that with a middle school structure more similar to the high school it prepares them well for the move to PCHS in tenth-grade.
The realignment has not affected the size of Treasure Mountain as much as Ecker Hill. Before, the school had a population of about 700 which increased to 740 after the realignment, said O’Connor.
He noted that this year Treasure Mountain had two of the largest grade levels in the district, something that could potentially change next year.
While ninth-graders still have the option of participating in high school sports, extra curricular activities and classes they have encountered a small challenge when the temperature drops.
"I think during the winter months when the weather was bad it was challenging for kids to go back and forth between here and the high school," he said.
O’Connor noted that approximately 80 students from Treasure Mountain would walk to the high school last year.
Overall, he views the realignment as a positive thing.
"With the honors classes here, and with the IB program we are able to raise the rigor and expectations of our students," he said.
Having the ninth-graders at the middle school, who are taking on additional responsibility for their academic careers because grades start counting on their transcripts, make them good role models for the eighth-graders, O’Connor added.
"It’s hard to believe the first year is gone, it went by quick. It was nice that we planned for all of the things that could go wrong. The kids came in and they handled it well," he said.
O’Connor also acknowledged the faculty.
"A lot of the credit for the smooth transition belongs to the faculty here at Treasure," he said adding they handled the increased workload and adjustments well.
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