By Karen Billing
The Rancho Santa Fe School District is incorporating sixth grade into its middle school this fall, a move that is in line with the new Common Core State Standards that breaks down elementary and middle school as K-5 and 6-8.
The school board approved the change at a special meeting on May 7. The move will also come with a new administrative position that will be a middle school principal.
“We are in a huge advantage to have a K-8 school,” said District Superintendent Lindy Delaney, noting all of the neighboring districts are K-6 and, with the new Common Core standards, the RSF School District’s sixth grade is almost in a “no- man’s land” in terms of the standards structure.
The largest school districts in the city, San Diego Unified and Poway Unified School Districts, are already in the K-5 for elementary and 6-8 for middle school formats. Delaney said more districts may consider making the change as the standards are adapted in 2014-15.
Delaney said bringing sixth grade into middle school offers some great collaborative opportunities for the middle school staff.
“The middle school staff is excited to have the six grade be a part of what they’re doing,” Delaney said.
Delaney said the change will allow more advanced sixth graders a chance to work with seventh grade teachers. In addition, sixth graders will be able to participate in certain team sports and they will move to a block schedule that allows them to pick an elective.
Delaney said that while the middle school teachers were excited about taking in the sixth graders, she was one of the last to come around to the change.
“I wanted to make sure we protect the sixth graders because they’re the youngest ones…it’s really important we take care of them emotionally,” Delaney said. “I think some may struggle with the block schedule, but that’s part of growth and maturation.”
She noted that in the similar Poway district, the sixth graders in their middle school have adapted well to a block schedule.
Delaney said she plans to meet with incoming middle school parents in the coming weeks to talk about the changes and hear any potential concerns.
As far as the new principal is concerned, Delaney said that the search would take about six to eight weeks.
“We have the time to be patient if we don’t find the right person right off the bat,” Delaney said. “We want to find the right fit.”
The board wondered about how the move will affect the sixth grade promotion ceremony, which has morphed from a humble pancake breakfast into a more formal event for both students and parents.
Principal Kim Pinkerton said she would look into the possibility of a special promotion for this year’s fifth grade, although the end of the year is fast approaching on June 14.