Making room for smaller elementary classes, Conejo Valley district trustees Thursday expanded a popular program that offers sixth-graders the choice of attending either elementary or middle schools.
Starting next year, the program will be offered at all four Conejo Valley middle and intermediate schools.
"I'm a strong supporter of the Middle School Program," said board President Richard Newman before voting. "I think the [program] has been very successful, and I'd like to see it be successful for more kids."
The pilot Middle School Program began two years ago at Colina Middle School and has since expanded to Los Cerritos Intermediate as well. A total of 288 sixth-graders, evenly split between Colina and Los Cerritos, are attending middle schools this fall.
The program has received plaudits from all sides and boasts waiting lists. Students and parents say they like choosing between the nurturing elementary atmosphere and the faster-paced world of middle school. In turn, school district officials like being able to offer that choice. They also understand that every child who leaves elementary school for middle school frees up more space for the smaller primary classes encouraged by a new state program.
Given the Conejo Valley's school space crunch, prompted by enrollment growth and whittled classes, the expansion of the voluntary Middle School Program means that trustees can avoid or defer a more problematic decision: whether to bump all sixth-graders into middle school by decree.
"I do want parents to have a choice,' said Trustee Elaine McKearn. "I would hate to see that we eliminate sixth grade" at elementary schools altogether.
At Thursday's meeting, the trustees decided to begin 144-student programs next year at both Redwood and Sequoia intermediate schools.