Pocahontas BOE holds forum on fifth grade changes
Buckeye, W.Va. – At a public forum Wednesday evening at Marlinton Middle School, the Pocahontas Board of Education presented information and heard comments on a proposal to move fifth graders from the middle school to Marlinton and Hillsboro elementary schools.
Board member Jan McNeel talks about what she learned at another school that had made the change.
“I worked with a fifth grade teacher who taught at a five through eight grade, and just transferred back, the second year they moved the fifth grade back to the elementary school – that’s where I was today,” she said. “I said, ‘can you just very quickly tell me what the difference is in working with these students, five through eight, than it is you being in a K through five school?’
She said, ‘yes, I can tell you very quickly.’ She said, ‘number one, in elementary, back here, they are allowed to be in their childhood. They are not expected to be teenagers.’ That was number one. ‘Number two,’ she said, ‘I can get the homework back from them much more quickly than I can than when they were in middle school.’ ‘Number three,’ she said, ‘is that I’ve got much more parent involvement here at a K-5 elementary than I have in the middle school concept.’ Because she was in the middle school, 5-8, years and years and this is just her second year back. She has improved her reading scores 24 percent and her writing scores are 70 percent mastery and above, when they’re back in the K-5 block.”
McNeel asked two eighth graders from other schools what they thought.
“Here were their comments, and this is right from the mouth of kids and you can probably, from your own kids, get the same sort of things,” she said. “I couldn’t believe this. They said, number one, that eighth graders are sexually active. Okay. And I would not want a fifth grader – and it’s true, they are – because I was a sixth through eighth grade teacher at middle school at Hillsboro, and they are. They said the content and the language and the images they see in the hallways in a five through eight is totally different than what they would see if they were in a K-5 setting.”
Superintendant C.C. Lester presented information showing that separating fifth graders from more mature students improves the younger students’ learning and development. Board staff member Ruth Bland said research shows that grade six is a crucial transition stage for most students and that sixth grade should be self-contained. Board member Hannah Sizemore said she experienced culture shock when she attended middle school as a fifth grader.
Parents noted that older and younger students still would interact during bus rides.
Parents asked if the proposed move is due to declining enrollment at Hillsboro Elementary, and board president Emery Grimes responds.
“This has absolutely nothing to do with Hillsboro,” he said. “We do not lose money or the SBA won’t back out if there’s not a certain population kept at Hillsboro. The cafeteria’s going to be built whether it’s one through four or one through five or K through four or K through five. Moving the fifth grade to Marlinton – and I’ve seen this in every letter every middle school teacher has wrote me – ‘is this about Hillsboro Elementary?’ No, it is not.”
Two parents said bullying is a problem at the middle school. Other parents said bullying is a problem in all schools. Several parents spoke in support of leaving their children at the middle school and expressed concern about the loss of music, art and language instruction for fifth graders, if the change was made.
The board will consider moving the fifth graders at its next meeting on January 28. That meeting will be held at the Pocahontas County High School Auditorium at 7 p.m.