Schools across the country and working to make the transition to middle school easier for kids. The principals, Annette Kenoly and Rebecca Morrisey, at Ross Elementary and Eisenhower Middle School in Topeka Kansas are excited about the connected campus concept.
“We really want to make sure students don’t get lost in those transition years,” said Morrisey, now in her third year at Eisenhower. “There are things we can do to make that transition less scary.”
Eisenhower and Ross comprise one of Topeka Unified School District 501’s two combined elementary-middle school campuses. State Street Elementary and Chase Middle School, on N.E. State Street, make up the other.
Both campuses serve preschool through eighth grade.
Now USD 501 is considering creating a third such campus by building an elementary adjacent to Jardine Middle School, on S.W. 33rd.
The idea is part of a potential $90 million bond issue. District administrators are still nailing down details of the bond proposal, but the school board is expected to vote on it in January. If approved, the public would have the final say on an April ballot.
Administrators at USD 501 say combined campuses have a variety of benefits: They ease the move to middle school, with the goal of reducing the negative effects on student progress; increase parental engagement; and give schools access to more resources.
Ross and Eisenhower, for example, offer an array of music programs, after-school clubs, and tutoring that Kenoly and Morrisey say are strengthened by collaborating.
But some parents are skeptical. They question the benefits and feel their kids are better off in smaller schools.
Building a new elementary next to Jardine would mean closing smaller facilities elsewhere. The district is considering shuttering two of four schools that feed into Jardine: Avondale West, Shaner, Stout and Bishop.