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Lawson pointed out that the main reason the district undertook the study in the first place was that the state was pushing for it.

"The state education department defines middle school as fifth through eighth grade," he said. "So middle school is defined as four years. We now only have two grades in the buildings that are equipped for middle-level education."

Lawson explained that middle school education requires larger classrooms than elementary education. Middle schoolers need science labs, home and careers labs and larger spaces for art and music, and the classrooms need to be set up differently.

"Now we're packing all of that into two years," he said. "That means we can't offer as many accelerated courses for our high-end learners, and our struggling learners fall through the cracks."

Lawson understands the criticisms of the plan. Many parents feel that sixth graders are too young to be in middle school. The state, however, feels differently.

"The state already defines middle school as five through eight," he said. "We need to comply with that."

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