Talk of moving sixth-graders to junior high campuses underway in Richardson ISD

Liberty Junior High School in Richardson ISD
Liberty Junior High School is one of eight junior high campuses in Richardson ISD. (Courtesy Richardson ISD)

Liberty Junior High School is one of eight junior high campuses in Richardson ISD. (Courtesy Richardson ISD)

District officials in Richardson ISD are exploring the possibility of moving sixth-graders from elementary to junior high school campuses.

Conversations about this process, known as grade configuration, are in the earliest stages. Committees overseeing facilities and instruction are beginning to meet to discuss the implications this significant move could have on the district, according to Superintendent Jeannie Stone.

“This would be a much longer process just because of the magnitude of this change,” Stone said at a Nov. 4 board meeting.

Unlike most school districts in North Texas, RISD does not have middle schools. Instead, students in kindergarten through sixth grade are housed at elementary schools, while seventh- and eighth-graders are grouped at junior highs.

Junior high school campuses in RISD formerly housed seventh through ninth-graders, which means those campuses were built for a three-grade configuration, according to Assistant Superintendent of District Operations Sandra Hayes.

“That being said, instruction is very different now, so there would need to be significant work done on our campuses,” Hayes said at the Nov. 4 meeting.

According to Stone, demographic shifts in Richardson and North Dallas are behind overcrowding at a handful of the district’s elementary schools. RISD’s strategic action committee in charge of evaluating the future of facilities believes relocating sixth graders could alleviate some of those growing pains, Stone said.

“That might certainly be true, but we have to determine from an instructional standpoint whether or not that is what Richardson ISD should do,” she said.

Moving an entire cohort of students to a different set of campuses would have far-reaching implications for more than just sixth-graders, Deputy Superintendent Tabitha Branum said at the meeting.

“This kind of move impacts everything we do at both the elementary and secondary level, and we want to make sure it is developmentally appropriate,” she said.

The strategic action committee that oversees instruction and learning has already begun to evaluate the impact that grade reconfiguration could have on the social and emotional aspects of child development, said Kristin Byno, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning services.

The next step, Branum said, is bringing the facilities and instruction committees together to evaluate this change in tandem. The first two meetings are scheduled to occur before Christmas break.

Branum said she is also consulting with leaders in Mesquite and Arlington ISDs, two districts that have recently undergone grade configuration.

Moving forward, committee staff will continuously update the board, Branum said. The committees hope to have a joint committee consensus finalized around Spring Break so that by summer, they can make decisions that could inform planning for the next bond, which is set to take place in 2021.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that junior high school campuses used to house sixth graders.


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