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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Board Weighs Policy for Sixth-Graders

Education: Simi trustees will consider ending practice allowing parents to choose between elementary and middle school.

September 26, 2000|PAUL M. ANDERSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Simi Valley school board could decide tonight whether to end the policy that lets parents decide whether their sixth-graders attend elementary school or middle school.

Resolving this issue, school officials said, will better help them plan for an expected influx of students as the city continues to grow.

The issue has been a touchy one for parents for years, because some believe middle schools have a better selection of elective classes, while others want their kids in elementary schools to avoid peer pressure often associated with middle school.

"Some 10-year-olds are not ready to go to sixth-grade [in] middle school. They still need the loving guidance of one teacher," said Imelda Noss, whose son is in the fifth grade at White Oak Elementary School. "My son's birthday is in September, so I held him back in kindergarten, because I felt he was too young. Letting him go to middle school next year defeats the purpose of what I did six years ago."

Sixth-graders in elementary school have one teacher, while those in middle school have four or five teachers, usually a different one for each class they attend.

Linda Brown made sure her three children, who are now in high school, attended elementary school when they were in sixth grade. Even though the board's decision won't affect her personally, Brown said she may attend tonight's meeting to say sixth-graders should not go to middle school.

"They grow up so fast, it's best for them to stay inside the younger environment," Brown said.

The Simi Valley Unified School District has three middle schools and 20 elementary schools. There are 398 sixth-graders in middle school and 1,278 in elementary schools.

If school officials decide to transfer all sixth-graders to middle schools, more mobile classrooms would be needed, because only one closed school is available, officials said.

Tonight's meeting will begin at 6:30 at Simi Valley City Hall.

Next month, board members will meet to discuss enrollment projections that show an increase in students, said Mel Roop, the district's assistant superintendent of facilities and property.

School officials, while researching the issue for board members, have conferred with counterparts at Conejo Valley Unified School District, said Kathryn Scroggin, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Simi Valley district.

Conejo Valley district officials also wrestle with the sixth-grade question, but it's a different scenario, said Tim Stephens, president of the school board.

Just as in Simi Valley, Conejo Valley parents have a choice. Many of them would prefer that their children get out of elementary school, Stephens said.

"We've had to cap it. We've got more parents who want their kids in middle school than there is space available," Stephens said.

Conejo educators are debating whether they want to expand the district's four middle schools or build a fifth one, Stephens said.

"We'll have another study session on the issue in October, and we hope to make a decision by the end of the year," he said.

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