As middle school now includes students younger than 7th graders, school districts have begun to focus on easing the transition to middle school for sixth graders.
In the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District, this is the first year that all sixth graders are included in middle school. Previously, they had the option of attending middle school or remaining in elementary school..
But last January, the school board voted unanimously to have sixth grade part of middle school starting this year. The board felt that it was in the students’ best interests academically to have middle school in both cities consist of grades six-eight.
On the first day of school, the transition went well despite some jitters. “I was actually nervous,” said Elisa Torrance, 12, who is in sixth grade at Mesa View.
About 680 sixth-graders are enrolled in the school district. Most attend Mesa View or Park View Middle School, with the balance at Competitive Edge, a kindergarten-grade 8 charter school that debuted in 2011. Enrollment there is decided by lottery.
Mesa View has twice as many sixth-graders this year, 280, as it did last year.
“It’s been going really well,” said Principal Jim Stolze.
As in the past two years, the school is easing its sixth-graders into middle school. They don’t have a different teacher for every subject. For the most part, they have two teachers – one for English/social science and one for math/science. Sixth-graders also have a separate teacher for electives and physical education.
Park View has adopted a similar approach.
Stolze said the sixth-graders are somewhat sheltered from the older students. The sixth-grade classrooms are clustered together.
But sixth-graders may see older students when crossing campus for their electives. Sixth-graders also have lunch with some of the seventh-graders, everyone has the same morning break and the evening dances are for all grades.