By Denise Dick
Ninth-graders who aren’t enrolled in one of the school district’s specialty programs will return to East High School next year, where they’ll be housed in a small-school environment.
The city schools’ Academic Distress Commission approved Superintendent Connie Hathorn’s plan for the change at a meeting Thursday.
“Smaller schools have been well-researched to benefit students,” Doug Hiscox, deputy superintendent for academic affairs, told commission members.
Benefits include higher student achievement, increased attendance, higher teacher satisfaction and improved school climate.
This year, eighth- and ninth-graders are housed at P. Ross Berry on the East Side, a change implemented as part of Hathorn’s revitalization plan.
“Smaller schools may be especially important for disadvantaged students by more-individualized attention and teachers being able to address different learning styles,” said the proposals submitted to the commission. “Also, smaller schools may promote substantially improved achievement and higher graduation rates.”
Another change next year divides students at the University Project Learning Center. Those students in second through 12th grades haven’t been successful either behaviorally or academically in a traditional school setting. The school is housed in the former Mary Haddow School on the East Side.
Next year, UPLC students in second through fifth grades will move to Kirkmere Elementary School on the West Side. Sixth- through eighth-graders will go to the second floor of P. Ross Berry.
Ninth- through 12th-graders will remain at Mary Haddow.
The commission also approved that change.
“The main purpose of the district is to improve the academic success rate, increase student attendance, improve student behavior and have the students return to a typical instructional setting,” the proposal says. “Also, placement of grades two to eight in the proposed buildings will provide students an environment where they can visualize how other students in their age [group] obtain success in a typical setting.”
Also at the meeting, Adrienne O’Neill, commission chairwoman, told Lock P. Beachum Sr., school board president, the board shouldn’t appoint a treasurer until after a regular commission meeting May 17.
Treasurer William Johnson plans to retire in July, and the board had narrowed to four a list of finalists to replace him. Last month, Beachum sent a letter to the commission asking for its members’ recommendation on the treasurer appointment.