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Madison sixth grade: Mixed reviewsTell North Platte what you think
Photo by George Lauby
Supt. Marty Bassett talks to the crowd
Photo by George Lauby
Tami Eshleman, standing, talks to Wendy Gosnell, a parent.
Photo by George Lauby
Bassett listens to a parent as the meeting breaks up.

Putting all sixth graders in Madison Middle School on the north side of town and the seventh and eighth graders in Adams on the south side got mixed reviews Tuesday.

With 2 out of 10 students failing to graduate at North Platte High School, top administrators are looking for solutions.

“We will look for answers,” Superintendent Marty Bassett said Tuesday as he met with 70 parents and teachers at Madison school. “From pre-kindergarten all the way through, we need to do all we can to improve.”

Bassett said the idea of putting all sixth-graders in Madison has been kicked around for several years. It would allow the staff to focus on the sixth grade as the students come together from 10 elementary schools.

It would decrease rivalries between the middle schools, allow sixth grade teachers to collaborate more, and help the students get used to classmates they will stay with until they graduate.

And, the buildings are about the right size for such as reconfiguration.

Classes generally have 15-20 students at Madison and 25-30 at Adams. The change would equalize class sizes at 20-25 students at each school.

Bassett said the change wouldn’t increase costs, except for the biggest challenge: transportation. The teaching staff would be about the same.

The challenge would be transporting students across town. One parent said the process could consume as much as an hour and a half a day. It would increase traffic congestion and dangers, especially at each school when students are dropped off and picked up.

Bassett told the gathering the change wouldn’t happen until 2014 if it happens at all. He said he was there to learn from them.

He said, “This is an idea."

He told the people to write pros and cons on sticky notes and stick the notes to appropriate cards representing the school’s highest priorities: student success, staff, communication and partnerships, effective resources and, finally, safety and working environment.

That took about 10 minutes. Then more than an hour of discussion ensued.

One parent said it would be hard for students to adjust to three schools in three years – elementary school, then Madison and then Adams.

Bassett said the stress of changing schools is often because students have to meet and mix with new classmates each time, but that would be lessened because sixth graders would stay together as they go to Adams.

Some parents were not convinced of that. They said the major challenge for students is learning where to go in the new building.

Others said children often have to get themselves to school, which would be virtually impossible if they have to travel across town.

After more discussion, Bassett asked people to write down a number that said how interested they are, from 0-5, with 0 represented by a fist.

He and associate superintendent Tami Eshleman collected the notes.

Another meeting is set at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Adams, and after that, the school board will discuss the possibility on Tuesday, April 23.

Bassett said the school board might tell him to forget it, or tell him to go ahead and keep planning.

If the process continues, the board would probably make a final decision by December or January, he said.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 4/17/2013
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