By Carla O’Day
Plans this fall to move sixth graders from two Sparks elementary schools into a middle school due to inadequate space to accommodate the multi-track year-round calendar was approved Tuesday by Washoe County School District trustees.
Families will soon be notified that their sixth graders will move from Robert Mitchell and Kate Smith elementary schools into Dilworth Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy. Dilworth currently serves seventh and eighth graders and is expected to be between 75 and 80 percent capacity. Mitchell is at about 120 percent and Smith at 123 percent capacity.
Students attending Smith are currently split when they transition to middle school with about half going to Sparks and the other half attending Dilworth. To correct this, it was recommended a spot rezone for those students zoned for Sparks Middle to attend Dilworth, although there could be circumstances that might require exceptions for families with children already attending Sparks Middle, which is at 90 percent of capacity.
Dilworth principal Laura Petersen said getting children into middle school as sixth graders gets them exposed to the curriculum, schedule and social aspects of middle school.
“Having students there an extra year and being able to develop a relationship with them is super important,” Petersen said.
Meetings on the topic in January were held at Mitchell, Smith and Dilworth. Area superintendent Debra Biersdorff said questions ranged from transportation, safety, staff and electives. Several fifth graders who attended the meeting at Dilworth were given a tour of the campus, she said.
“The information was well received,” Biersdorff said. “The kids are buzzing about it.”
Trustee Debra Feemster told district staff they need to be prepared for questions from parents who are concerned about the transition to middle school, even though meetings have been held and mailings have been sent.
“Some of the biggest bullies in the world are scared to go to middle school,” Feemster said.
Ten of Washoe County’s 14 middle schools will serve at least some sixth graders by fall 2017. Additionally, educational specifications for building new schools include sixth grade in the middle school design configuration.
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