The group spent months studying data and weighing the pros and cons of the option before making a recommendation. If implemented, the change would not occur until school year 2024-25 at the earliest, according to the district.
“We were primarily focused on, first and foremost, what is in the best interest of our kids, but we were [also] trying to touch on: are sixth graders ready to move to junior high?” committee member and parent Eric Eager said.
RISD is part of only 5% of Texas school districts that do not offer a middle school configuration, according to a committee presentation made at the May 4 board meeting.
Statewide curriculum is bundled for grades 6-8, so keeping those students together makes sense academically, presenters said. The committee also found that sixth graders are more developmentally aligned with middle schoolers rather than elementary-age children.
Moving sixth graders would provide an additional year to connect with middle school teachers, the committee said. It would also broaden sixth grade access to extracurricular activities, such as fine arts and athletics.
The move would also free up space at elementary schools, which could facilitate the district’s goal of providing universal pre-K somewhere down the line, the committee found.
“A middle school model would be more fiscally efficient as classroom construction would be required at eight current junior high campuses instead of dozens of elementary campuses,” the district wrote on its website.
Superintendent Jeannie Stone said she wants to hear feedback from the community and is encouraging parents to keep an open mind.
“We want to make sure this is right because this is a foundational shift for Richardson ISD,” Stone said. “I don’t want it to immediately be something we get divided on.”
If the recommendation moves forward, a phase-in plan would be developed, and funding for additional classroom construction and associated space would be included in an upcoming bond package, tentatively set for 2021.
Parents can provide feedback through the Let’s Talk webpage here. To learn more, visit https://web.risd.org/middleschoolmodel/