"We had to determine what was best for the students and whether it was feasible for us to try to meet the requirements," Patterson said.
"We had to ask, what would be the advantages of moving the classes?" Ryan said. "What would be the disadvantages? We basically said, 'Will we increase the strength of our program by having sixth graders take on those classes?'"
"The important question was, what will you gain if you move the classes out of seventh and eighth [grades[?" Patterson said. "What could we do that would be best for students?"
Ultimately, it was decided that it would be neither feasible nor advantageous to implement those changes.
"It didn't help the strength of the program," Ryan said. "As we moved some requirements, they'd still have to be picked up again in ninth [grade], so there was a long gap between the introduction and when they're supposed to pick it up again."
In addition, facility changes would be needed to move technology and family and consumer science into the elementary schools, a move that would have been cost prohibitive. Staffing also proved to be a problem, as teachers now covering three schools would have to teach in 13. Finally, the move wouldn't lessen the hectic schedules of middle school students, and it would only make schedules heavier at the elementary level.
"It didn't make sense based on the minimal benefits," Ryan said.
Instead, the district has undertaken other initiatives to improve the quality of education middle-schoolers receive. The Read 180 program, which works to bring all students up to grade level in reading, has been implemented in all of the middle schools.
"It's not just for special ed students," Patterson said. "There are so many students in seventh and eighth grade who can't read at level. They can't be focused on their academics if they can't read at grade level -- and not just in English class. It impacts all of their core classes. They can't grasp the vocabulary and the concepts and transfer them to real life. Read 180 is a big initiative that really helps the students that are most at risk."