Iowa City to shift from junior highs to middle schools in 2024

cigaretteman

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May 29, 2001
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Sixth-graders in Iowa City’s new middle school model will have the opportunity to explore their career interests through “exposure units.”


The district is transitioning from a junior high to a middle school model by fall 2024, moving sixth-graders into schools with seventh- and eighth-graders.


The Iowa City school board approved the plan in February to move sixth-graders out of elementary schools.


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It will require $34 million to expand the district’s three junior highs to fit in 300 to 400 sixth-graders at each building. The cost will be covered by already-approved sales and property taxes.


Career exploration​


Middle school is a critical time for students to begin exploring career pathways and developing related skills, Lucas Ptacek, Iowa City schools’ executive director of secondary schools, told the Iowa City school board Tuesday.


Career development at this age, he said, helps students identify their strengths and interests, adds relevancy to their academic classes and eases the transition to high school, he said.


To ease the transition from fifth- to sixth-grade, sixth-graders will have a core three teachers for English, math, science and social studies, he said. Additionally, they will take six 30-day “exposure units” related to career and technical education, art and health.


“We know we want to provide ample opportunities for students post-high school, whether that be college or trades,” Ptacek said. “We have a responsibility to provide information and skills needed to make sure those students are successful beyond their experience here in Iowa City schools.”


The exposure units are still being developed.


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From elementary to middle school to high school, students “gradually increase the number of adults they’re interacting with throughout the day,” Ptacek said. Seventh- and eighth-graders will rotate teachers for more subjects than sixth-graders, he said.


“We want to provide as seamless transition as possible between middle and high school,” Ptacek said. “The idea behind exposure units is they have the opportunity to discover. When a student starts to design their schedule in the future, they can keep in mind what things they really enjoyed.”


The plan​


The estimated enrollment projections at each junior high with the addition of sixth-graders will be:


  • 856 at North Central, 180 W. Forevergreen Rd., North Liberty
  • 1,137 at Northwest, 1507 Eighth St., Coralville
  • 1,166 at South East, 2501 Bradford Dr., Iowa City

This plan requires some teachers to shift from elementary to middle school as well. Ptacek said district administrators want to make sure teachers are “well-informed” about what the transition will look like and that it’s something they are interested in.


The majority of sixth-grade teachers in Iowa City have a license to teach K-6, Ptacek said. While they can teach any subject, Ptacek said he wants to ensure they’re teaching subjects they have a passion for.


For sixth-grade teachers who are not interested in moving to a middle school, they will have opportunities in the elementary schools, Ptacek said.


Board reaction​


School board member Jayne Finch said she watched her own children go from the “sheltered, controlled environment” in elementary school to junior high, where they “weren’t ready for all that responsibility and independence.”


“I’m so excited for this transitional year,” Finch said during the Tuesday board meeting.


School board member Maka Pilcher Hayek said transitioning to a middle-school model, where students will spend three years, will make the experience “more meaningful.” Spending only two years in junior high makes it challenging for students to feel connected to the school, she said.


“One hope for me with this system is that it will get kids, teachers, staff and parents to dig in more to the middle school experience instead of it being a transitional two years,” Pilcher Hayek said.


School board member Lisa Williams said one of her children will be in the first class of sixth-graders to experience the middle school model in the fall of 2024.


“I am personally invested in making sure this is amazing,” Williams said.

 
Dec 14, 2002
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Is there any way the IC JH schools are going to be ready to accept 6th graders in 2024? Where are they going to put them all?
 
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QChawks

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Feb 11, 2013
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Quad Cities
good to hear, many of other towns/cities have adopted the 6-8 model already.

I went to Southeast JH and I'm curious how they plan to house these additional 350 kids
 

Hoosierhawkeye

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Sep 16, 2008
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So wait, I've never understood the difference between "Junior High" and "Middle School" . . . I kind of thought they were the same thing.

So middle school means grades 6, 7, and 8 and Junior High means just 7th and 8th?

What's it called when it's grades 5th, 6th, 7,th and 8th? The school system I will be sending my kids to when they go back to in person I believe transitioned to this.
 

GOHOX69

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Sep 26, 2009
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Iowa City junior highs used to be 7th to 9th grade. My class was the first 9th grade class at West High School. Woohoo another year of getting your ass kicked.
 

IowaPackFan

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Dec 30, 2006
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It wasn’t until college or some time after that I learned not everyone had 6-8 middle school. It’s been that way in CR my entire life.
 

BubsFinn

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Nov 20, 2004
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I didn’t realize there was a difference between Jr high and middle school.
 

Pinehawk

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Sep 16, 2003
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Putting 350 6th graders into Southeast Junior High? One less year of getting to be a young kid...
That's going to be an eye opener for a lot of families.

You want a preview? Head over to the Mercer Rec Center at 3:30 PM some weekday and just watch and listen.
 

Mat_Hawks

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Mar 9, 2004
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Putting 350 6th graders into Southeast Junior High? One less year of getting to be a young kid...
That's going to be an eye opener for a lot of families.

You want a preview? Head over to the Mercer Rec Center at 3:30 PM some weekday and just watch and listen.
Doesn’t Regina mix Jr and High School together?
 

stout1

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Jan 21, 2004
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The middle level grades (5-8) are some of the most difficult grades to educate and transition socially.

I’ve experienced about every permutation possible (5-8 in one building, 4-6 and 7&8 in different buildings, 6-8 in one building, 5-6 and 7-8 in separate building a or separate wings of the same building) and all have their pros and cons.
 

MitchLL

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Dec 26, 2018
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Putting 350 6th graders into Southeast Junior High? One less year of getting to be a young kid...
That's going to be an eye opener for a lot of families.

You want a preview? Head over to the Mercer Rec Center at 3:30 PM some weekday and just watch and listen.
You haven't heard....families are gonna get paid to send their kids to Regina!!!!
At least the kids that are really, really smart or are good at sports.
 

Pinehawk

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Sep 16, 2003
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Doesn’t Regina mix Jr and High School together?
Separate hallways and parts of the building to some degree, but yes.
However, as you can imagine, the environment is quite different.
Go stop by Mercer Rec Center, next door to Southeast Junior High, some afternoon.
 

conn53victor

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Oct 15, 2014
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The middle level grades (5-8) are some of the most difficult grades to educate and transition socially.

I’ve experienced about every permutation possible (5-8 in one building, 4-6 and 7&8 in different buildings, 6-8 in one building, 5-6 and 7-8 in separate building a or separate wings of the same building) and all have their pros and cons.
Don’t focus on the junior high vs. middle school names. The difference should be on focus and organization rather than ages. Some of excellent middle schools are called junior highs with grades 7-8. Some grade 6-8 middle schools are actually more like traditional junior highs. And any school for that level is a blend of junior high and middle school concepts. I don’t agree with everything in the attached article, but it’s generally on point.

What’s the Difference Between Middle School and Junior High School?

I was at West Branch when we took a full year to decide whether to switch from from 7-8 junior high to grade 6-8 middle school with study groups of teachers, administrators, parents, and students. We agreed on the switch to a 6-8 middle school, but even if we had stayed 7-8, we would’ve made substantial changes based on our research.

Finally, regardless of the sound educational reasons, the decision to change is often based on building utilization. Every elementary getting overcrowded? Just move the sixth graders up and then we only have to expand the three junior highs rather than fixing 21 elementaries.
 
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stout1

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Jan 21, 2004
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Don’t focus on the junior high vs. middle school names. The difference should be on focus and organization rather than ages. Some of excellent middle schools are called junior highs with grades 7-8. Some grade 6-8 middle schools are actually more like traditional junior highs. And any school for that level is a blend of junior high and middle school concepts. I don’t agree with everything in the attached article, but it’s generally on point.

What’s the Difference Between Middle School and Junior High School?

I was at West Branch when we took a full year to decide whether to switch from from 7-8 junior high to grade 6-8 middle school with study groups of teachers, administrators, parents, and students. We agreed on the switch to a 6-8 middle school, but even if we had stayed 7-8, we would’ve made substantial changes based on our research.

Finally, regardless of the sound educational reasons, the decision to change is often based on building utilization. Every elementary getting overcrowded? Just move the sixth graders up and then we only have to expand the three junior highs rather than fixing 21 elementaries.
All good points. Great info for others in this thread without experience in this area.
 
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