The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Educators quick to defend moving 6th graders

Principals say students will receive a better educational experience


Valdez Star file photo

Chris Bennett, (left) first year principal at Hermon Hutchens Elementary School, supports the district’s move towards a middle school concept. Bennett greeted school board member Anita Fannin at the school’s library during interviews for the position.

School district administrators were quick to defend – and tout – the proposal to move next year’s sixth grade class to the Gilson Jr. High, effectively changing the school to a middle school.

“I’ve been an advocate of the middle school concept since I came to Valdez in 2002,” Rod Morrison, principal of GJH told the board Monday night.

Morrison said the move will be tight, and will require the installation of an additional 30 lockers to the old school. GJH is on a track to be replaced with a new building which will embrace the middle school concept, pending voter approval and other administrative hurdles.

Morrison said he is eager to begin building the middle school programs which will be needed for the new middle school regardless. While there will be mixed classes, sixth graders will be segregated from eighth graders for PE, among other considerations for the younger grade.

Valdez Star file photo

Gilson principal Rod Morrison works hard to keep a fun atmosphere at the junior high school, as seen in this 2010 last day of school photo. Morrison is a booster of the sixth grade move to the junior high.

“It’s a program you’re building,” he said, “not a school itself.”

Chris Bennett, principal of Hermon Hutchens Elementary School is also a booster for the move. He told the board he sees a potential for unity among next year’s sixth and seventh graders, as both classes are fifth and sixth graders from HHES this year.

A side benefit to the early move rarely mentioned in the current talks is how moving the sixth grade out of HHES will likely improve the elementary school’s Adequate Yearly Progress ratings under the federal No Child Left Behind mandate. With a lower overall population of students it is likely that categories of students that have struggled to pass muster under AYP will no longer be statistically valid under the formulas used to measure student testing success, therefore improving the school’s overall evaluation under the mandate.


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