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Views split among parents on SMSD middle school proposal

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SHAWNEE, Kan. -- Views among Shawnee Mission School District parents are mixed about a proposed plan to move sixth graders to middle school. Right now, the district’s middle schools only include seventh and eighth grades.

According to the school district’s website, an 87-day listening tour revealed that parents wondered why sixth graders were still being taught in elementary school, while many of the counties in other districts educate sixth graders in middle school.

A task force was formed. Tuesday night, parents sat through its presentation aimed at showing if the plan is feasible, and the pros and cons. In a survey among students, about 15 percent were undecided about the change while those for and against were split even at just over 42 percent.

Views among parents FOX 4 spoke with are mixed as well, including one parent who attended a middle school that sixth through eighth grades.

“It made a whole lot easier for me to adapt with older kids so I could get the hang of what’s going on in middle school, versus being in a grade school setting as a sixth grader,” said parent Felicia Spencer.

“At that age you feel like, well, they’re younger than me. I’m a big kid. Why would I be here with them?” Spencer continued, when asked why sixth graders would be better off in middle school.

"I think their sixth grade teachers are a coach, and advocate a cheerleader for preparing them for middle school. I think at the beginning of sixth grade, sometimes maturity wise they’re not quite ready,” said parent Sarah Jones.

“I would like to see sixth grade remain in elementary school. I think it’s the best place for them academically, socially, and emotionally. It’s a good fit to keep them where they are right now," Jones continued.

The district laid out several scenarios about how to incorporate the sixth graders, including renovations and potentially building a new school. Currently, the task force feels the district’s teaching staff is adequate to handle the change. There will be more meetings in the future to discuss the potential change.