College Place sixth-graders could be on move to Sager

A plan is being discussed to move the grade from the intermediate school to the middle school.

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COLLEGE PLACE - A discussion has been revived to potentially move sixth-grade students from Meadow Brook Intermediate to Sager Middle School.

During Thursday night's School Board meeting, Superintendent Tim Payne said the district would make a decision within the next month on whether to move the sixth-grade class for the start of the 2010-11 school year.

Payne cited dropping enrollment at Sager as one of the key reasons for the proposed switch. The discussion was apparently first taken up last school year, but a decision was not made in time to implement changes for the current school year.

Payne stressed that if the move were to take place, it would need to be decided soon.

Sager, which serves about 140 students in seventh and eighth grades, has seen its numbers drop since the start of the year. At its peak in the past, the school served more than 200 students. Payne said 140 was the lowest he had seen enrollment drop.

Although it was not exactly clear why students were leaving, Payne said middle schools in neighboring districts - particularly, Walla Walla - may offer programs or electives that are more appealing to families than what College Place can currently offer. He said if the move worked in retaining current students, and perhaps bringing the numbers back up, there could then be opportunity to focus on introducing more competitive programs.

Board members discussed how having sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students together at Sager could potentially revive programs. Launching a wrestling team or offering wood shop again were given as examples.

Payne did say that if enrollment numbers continue to drop, the lost revenue would eventually lead to staff losses. Districts receive state education dollars based on how many students they serve.

"If you're down kids, you start losing teachers," he said.

The switch would not require a School Board vote, but Payne planned to meet with individual members during the next few weeks to get an idea of where they stand on the proposal.

He planned to announce at the March meeting the direction the district would take based on those discussions.

The sixth-grade class could potentially move to classrooms above the Sager gymnasium. These rooms are now used by special programs like GEAR UP and the 21st Century grant program.

Meadow Brook and Sager Principal Bill Varady voiced his support of the move, noting he had undergone a similar switch at his previous school. Other audience members, including staff members and parents, also voiced support.

The board meets again March 18 at 7 p.m. in the Sager gym.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

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