Sixth Grade Move Causes Controversy and Concern

The decision has finally been made. Berner Middle School now includes sixth-grade students.
After months of decisions and reversals, it became official that this year’s sixth grade class would join the new 7th and 8th graders in the middle school.
Now that the decision is finalized, it is important to look back at how the school district came to this point and to consider the feelings of people on both sides of the move.
Back in early 2016, the school board approved the plans for the sixth graders to enter the middle school.
According to Newsday, one of the primary motives for the move was to give sixth grade students more educational opportunities, including longer school days, different types of classes, and earlier foreign language instruction.
The administration began setting in place the infrastructure to allow for such a move – hiring new staff to teach the sixth graders and making arrangements to schedules.
Many parents came out in support of the move, believing it to be beneficial in advancing their children’s opportunities, but some believed the decision to be a mistake.
A large number of parents feared that Berner may become overcrowded if more students were placed into the school, and this argument does not come without merit. The middle school is known for having a high student population.
The administration, however, attempted to combat these fears by placing most of the sixth grade classes near each other so that there would be little need for sixth graders to roam the halls.
The two camps of parents clashed often, arguing both in school board meetings and in various groups on Facebook.
Despite opposition by some parents, the move seemed to be proceeding as planned. That is, until the May election of a candidate opposed to the move.
This changed the composition of the school board, making it three members opposed to the move and two members in favor of the move.
The new school board having been sworn in decided to hold another vote on whether to proceed with the sixth grade move. Now here is where the real mistake was made.
The school board decided to reverse the decision after months of planning had gone into its execution and implementation.
This decision to reverse the move was, by far, more destructive to the Massapequa School District than the initial decision of the move.
The fifth graders of the 2016-2017 school year already received moving up ceremonies and graduation parties. Reversing the decision would have left these students and their parents with much confusion.
The district had already poured a significant amount of funds and time into ensuring the move would be as smooth as possible, not to mention the district had already hired teachers to work with the sixth graders in the middle school.
Should the move not have proceeded, these teachers would have been out of a job that they had previously been promised. Not only that, but they would not have had enough time to find employment elsewhere before the start of the school year.
Setting aside the conflict with staff, the reversal was also a terrible blow to the reputation of the Massapequa School District.
The confusion over whether the move would happen did not paint the school district in much of a positive light, and it put the Massapequa School District at the center of attention for negative reasons.
Instead of making the news for controversy, the Massapequa School District should instead make the news for its excellent academic offerings and outstanding faculty and students.

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