One thing I immediately noticed that gave me concern upon moving to this community was the inclusion of the 4th and 5th grade students in the middle school. While I understand they are separated, many can argue the socializations occurring before and after school can have a huge impact on such a young child. In addition to this, I noticed the posting of A and B honor rolls for 4th and 5th grade students. This was also concerning to me and leads me to wonder if we are not putting too much pressure on very young children who are still learning and still growing both physically and emotionally.
I think research needs to be completed (and if it already has please publish the results) regarding the effects of integrating young children (especially 4th graders) into the middle school environment. My very quick research I conducted showed a result of 5th graders entering the middle school and it was stated that some 5th and 6th graders would benefit from the protective environment of elementary school. They may be pushed too hard academically or socially. I would argue there could be detrimental effects to pushing children hard socially and academically at such a young age. These effects can range from bullying to dropping out of school or giving in to peer pressures.
Students are often lumped together developmentally between the ages of 11-14 with similar experiences and needs. I would argue the 9 and 10 year olds have different needs and could benefit from staying in the protective environment of elementary school.
I am very much 100% on board with a new elementary school being built in this town. I was not impressed with my tour of the two that exist. However, I would urge those making decisions and those voting to conduct a study on the effects of 4th graders and even 5th graders being included in the middle school environment and the effects of having comparative grading scales to older kids at such a young age. Perhaps the 9th graders could stay in middle school to utilize the space the 4th and 5th graders use. This may allow more space at the high school, which I am certain will be the next issue tackled after the elementary school. Of course, this should also be researched as to the effects of keeping 9th graders in the middle school.
Perhaps in doing research we will find the effects are not terrible, or we could determine things we can do to minimize these effects. Either way, we should do our due diligence and ensure we are providing the best opportunities for our children and our community.
Sarah A Johnson
Ft. Madison, Iowa