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6th-Graders Won't Move to Middle School, Board Votes

Education: Parents will continue to decide if their children should stay at elementary campuses or move on.


Simi Valley parents will continue to be allowed to decide if their children attend sixth grade in elementary or middle school, the school board unanimously voted Tuesday.

By not changing the long-standing policy of choice, board members may have stymied school officials in their efforts to handle impending campus crowding issues as the city continues to grow. District officials said a change would have helped them plan better.

But the board, citing comments from parents, voted 5 to 0 to keep the current policy. They said they wanted to abide by the wishes of parents, who liked being able to decide.

"It's probably the best way to go, given the division and emotion involved in this issue," Supt. Joyce Mahdesian said.

Board member Janice DiFatta had pushed for the change, saying it would be better if all sixth-graders attended middle school. But Tuesday, she voted to keep the current policy because "we're offering choice and, in this community, it's the right thing to do."

Before the meeting, DiFatta said the board needed to act. The November elections are only six weeks away, and the sixth-grade issue is one of the most volatile in the campaign.

Next month, school leaders will discuss enrollment projections, which are expected to rise, officials said.

Deciding the question about where to send sixth-graders would have helped officials plan, said Mel Roop, the district's assistant superintendent of facilities and property.

Some parents say they like having their sixth-graders in elementary school because they're not mature enough to handle middle school. Others, however, say they want their children in middle school where they can get a better selection of elective classes.

The main difference for students between the schools is that middle school students switch classes throughout the day and have different teachers. Elementary students usually have just one class and one teacher, although some schools rotate sixth-graders in elementary school.

The district has three middle schools and 20 elementary schools. The district has 398 sixth-grade students in middle school and 1,278 in elementary school.

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