The Wiscasset School Committee, on Thursday, Jan. 26, authorized Wiscasset School Department Superintendent Heather Wilmot to begin exploring the possibility of moving Wiscasset’s sixth-graders from Wiscasset Elementary School to Wiscasset Middle High School for the 2017-2018 school year.
While consideration of the move is in its preliminary stages, questions are already circulating in the community, committee Chair Michael Dunn said.
Parents and school staff raised concerns about the interaction of younger students with high school students and the lack of a playground at the middle high school during the school committee meeting.
After closing the Wiscasset Primary School, the Wiscasset School Department transitioned to two schools in the 2015-2016 school year, with pre-kindergarten through grade six located at the elementary school and grades seven through 12 located at the middle high school.
The school department has been “chewing on how to best serve” its middle school students and meet their academic, social, and emotional needs, Wilmot said. The administration has already developed guidelines to follow to consider the move, Wilmot said.
Location, space, staff assignments, curriculum and professional development, transportation, athletics and extracurricular activities, and communication with parents, staff, students, and the community were identified as areas to focus on while considering the move, Wilmot said. “There are many layers and topics to think about,” she said.
The administration is considering establishing a middle school wing for grades six through eight in the middle high school to limit the interaction of middle school students with high school students and best support the development of middle level learners, Wilmot said.
Wilmot said she will begin to reach out to parents and the community to gather their feedback on the potential move.
Alternative education teacher Kim Andersson said the sixth-graders still enjoy using the playground, and the middle high school does not have one.
The move for 2017-2018 “seems fast,” especially with the recent transition to two school buildings, a parent said. The parent asked what the process will be to inform parents, so they feel comfortable with smaller kids sharing the same building with high school students.
“You always do a great job of communicating with the community, but it’s going to be really important throughout this process,” school committee member Chelsea Taylor said to Wilmot. School committee members encouraged the school administration to consider schedules for use of the gymnasium and cafeteria while exploring the move.
Regular updates will be provided to the school committee and the community about potentially moving the sixth grade to the middle high school, and outreach efforts to incorporate the parents, students, staff, and the community into the conversation will begin shortly, Wilmot said.