KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Hickman Mills School District is changing things up for middle school students and parents next year.

Burke Academy, which houses just 6th grade students, will house just 8th graders for the 2023-2024 school year.

The change comes despite a success the district’s apparently had in not mixing the 6th graders with higher grades.

“When we looked at the data, the previous year by November, because I was taking a look at this earlier, we had like 292 office referrals,” Superintendent Yaw Obeng said in an interview with FOX4 Thursday. “Now, it had gone down to like 50.”

After working with those sixth graders, Obeng said it’s time to do something for their 8th graders, who will soon be moving onto Ruskin High School.

“So we said, ‘You know why don’t we go with an eighth grade center model where we can really focus on preparation for high school and look at the pathways they’re going to enter whether if it’s the arts or sciences and create some programs that we can deal with and also much smaller cohort groups,'” Obeng said. “So we can really spend the time and attention with them to move.”

The decision at the middle school level will also be a change to the success Obeng’s had putting all the 6th graders together and not mixing them with 7th graders.

Obeng said it’s all about changing their structure to support their kids, adding they had to take it apart in order to rebuild it.

“So we took it apart, did the experiment and figured out what works in terms of programs. What sort of safety procedures do we need, what sort of interventions for academic achievement, and we found that it was successful,” he continued.

Hickman Mills leaders are using those same procedures at Smith-Hale Middle School for 2023-2024. At that time, 6th and 7th graders will go there. This school year, Smith-Hale’s been used for 7th and 8th graders.

Smith-Hale is the old Hickman Mills High School on Old Sante Fe Road, which stopped being a full high school in the spring of 2010.