The Bethel School Distict is moving from junior high schools to middle schools.
The board for the Spanaway-based school district voted Tuesday night to start the transition from its current seventh-through-ninth grade junior highs beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
That year, ninth graders will move to the district’s high schools, leaving a junior high-middle school hybrid to house only seventh- and eighth-graders.
Then in the 2013-14 school year or later – depending on student growth and economic conditions – the plan is to move sixth graders from the district’s elementary schools to middle schools for students in grades six through eight.
That’s the model that’s in use in most of Western Washington and the prevalent model nationwide.
The Bethel School District and a committee of staff and community members has been studying the switch for more than two years.
The Puyallup School District, which also has junior and senior highs, launched a similar study last fall. Its committee was slated to report its findings in 2012, but the study has now been extended to 2013.
In Bethel Tuesday, Superintendent Tom Seigel told board members the most pressing reason for the change concerns ninth-graders.
Moving them to a high school campus is one way to get their attention, he said. Students need to understand that “what they’re doing in their freshman year, their ninth grade year, really counts toward graduation,” Seigel said. “The way to do that is to get them in the (high school) building.”
But board member Ron Morehouse, who voted against the changes, said the plan could cost money the district doesn’t have and may not recover in the uncertain economy.
He said there’s no proof that middle schools and four-year high schools will serve kids better.