Clovis junior high reconfiguration outlined

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

A twofold recommendation to soothe growth and social issues within Clovis schools was outlined Tuesday during a meeting hosted by school officials.

Made by an advisory board of teachers, administrators, and parents, the recommendation would:
-Create a separate school for ninth-graders.
-Create two middle schools to house seventh- and eight-graders, with the transition of sixth-graders considered at a later date.

After months of research, the board concluded a better social and academic atmosphere would be created by such changes, school officials said.

At least 40 people attended the meeting. Most were school employees.

“As far as ninth-graders go, we need to cater to their needs better,” said Yvette Pickett, an advisory board member and a mother of three children, ages 12, 13, and 14.

“They need to feel more like high school students.”

Currently, sixth-graders are housed in elementary schools and seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders are housed in three junior high schools in the district.

A disparity in population at the three junior highs spurred the creation of the advisory board, according to Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm. With a population of roughly 750 students, Yucca Junior High School is cramped compared with Gattis and Yucca, the two other junior highs in the district, according to school officials.

The board sought a way to ease that population disparity and address social and academic issues attached to the current junior high school configuration, Seidenwurm said.

She said the board’s recommendation would also solve issues that may arise with regional growth anticipated with a new mission at Cannon Air Force Base and new industries filtering into the region.

“(The reconfigurement) will pull Clovis Municipal Schools into the 21st century,” Seidenwurm said.

“This plan is also,” she said, “a piece of what I think is an efficient way to deal with growth.”

More room would be created in the district’s elementary schools if sixth-graders were housed with seventh- and eighth-graders, Seidenwurm said.

She said the creation of a vocational technical high school, which would accommodate 400 to 600 students, is also central to the future of Clovis schools.
According to Seidenwurm, roughly 100 students drop out of school between ninth grade and 12th grade.

“We are losing an awful lot of kids,” she said.
A vocational-technical school and a grouping of junior high school students that is attentive to their needs may alleviate problems that cause students to drop out of high school, she said.

Some voiced concern with the recommendation.

“I don’t know if I can support the idea of housing sixth-graders with eighth-graders,” said Carolyn Toliver, a former teacher and grandmother of a sixth-grader.
There is no timeline for the implementation of the recommendation, but the endorsement of board members would be sought before further action was taken, Seidenwurm said.

Another meeting to explain the recommendation and garner public feedback will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Clovis High School Lecture Hall across from the Rock Staubus Gymnasium.

The following issues were also addressed Tuesday:

Q: What school would house the ninth-grade center? And what schools would become middle schools?

A: Those details have not been determined yet. Research would precede determination of campus sites, Seidenwurm said.

Q: What if one middle school became more prestigious than the other, for instance, because of its location?

A: School officials are cognizant such a situation could occur and would work to ensure the schools were balanced, Seidenwurm said.

Q: How would school officials staff the ninth-grade center and the two middle schools?

A: Seidenwurm said the preferences and credentials of staff members would be two primary factors in the makeup of staff.

Q: Would students enrolled in a vocational-technical high school be subject to the same testing standards as students in the traditional high school?

A: Yes.

Q: Would sports and extracurricular activities be affected?

A: School officials said it isn’t likely sports and extracurricular activities would be affected by any of the proposed changes. At a vocational-technical school, students in band or football, for instance, could still attend practices for such activities. At the ninth-grade level, there would likely be two teams for each sport, created randomly, officials said.

Q: What if a student enrolled in the vocational-technical school suddenly decided he or she wanted to attend college?

A: Core subjects such as math and English would still be a part of the technical-vocational curricula. But they would taught differently, Seidenwurm said. For instance, a student in the vo-tech school might study technical writing rather than Chaucer, Seidenwurm said. An aim of both schools would be to prepare students for the rigors of college study, Seidenwurm said.