April 20, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
54°F

Medina middle schools brace for rebirth

MEDINA — As a result of the failed tax levy in November, Medina City Schools’ Claggett and A.I. Root middle schools will reopen as junior high schools for the 2010-11 school year.

Superintendent Randy Stepp said the administration knew in September the district would have to make the switch if the levy failed. Officials have projected a $9.5 million budget shortfall in 2010. The 11.7-mill incremental levy, which voters rejected on Nov. 3, would have generated $13.8 million a year once fully phased in over three years.

Stepp said changing Claggett and Root to junior highs will save the district an estimated $1.5 million through course and staff cuts. Students in grades six to eight attend Claggett and Root.

“I think it’s very unfortunate,” Stepp said. “It’s going to be a detriment to education in Medina.”

Stepp said that is because the middle school model is a better approach to teaching adolescents.

The main difference between a middle school and a junior high school is middle schools provide teams of teachers who coordinate and personalize students’ classes. In Medina, five teachers comprise each team. Teacher teams are given time to meet and integrate coursework, he said.

Stepp said the model helps to prevent academic overload because teachers coordinate tests, preventing students from having multiple tests in one day.

In junior high, students are not in class “teams” and are randomly assigned classes instead.

Also, teachers do not coordinate lesson plans or testing days.

Stepp said the middle school model “helps kids transition into high school” by giving them more personal attention at a difficult developmental stage and easing them into the “intense rigor that comes with moving up in the education system.

“Anybody who has worked in a middle school knows that students at that age are dealing with difficult emotional, social and developmental issues,” Stepp said.

It also makes parent-teacher conferences more productive because parents meet with their child’s entire teacher team, he said.

Stepp said the majority of academically high-performing Ohio school districts use the middle school format.

He said school officials are working on determining which courses and positions to cut in the middle schools. Cuts in course offerings likely will be in electives such as foreign languages and the arts, he said.

When school resumes Jan. 4, the school district plans to save money by reducing busing to state minimum standards.

Students within two miles of their school must walk or find alternative transportation. There will be no busing for high school students.

The district also has instituted fees to participate in sports and extracurricular activities for students, beginning with winter sports. For example, high school students must pay $660 per sport to participate.

Stepp said although teachers and parents have expressed concerns about the change from the middle to junior high model, “when your back is against the wall, you have no other option.”

Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at (330) 721-4050 or kbushinski@ohio.net.