The Stevens Point Area Public School District School Board’s Finance Committee accepted the Grade Level Configuration Study Committee’s final report at a meeting Tuesday, March 5.
Studying factors like emotional development, extra-curricular activities, safety, staffing, funding and costs, the study committee recommended two options to resolve facility space issues for the next 10 to 15 years.
Several elementary schools are already at or are exceeding working capacity, and population growth in the southern portion of the District is outpacing growth elsewhere in the district, according to the study final report.
“Ultimately, our committee came up with two alternatives that really floated to the top that everyone liked the best,” said Wendy Fix, a parent member of the study committee.
The first option is to move ninth grade to the Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH), with an expansion to SPASH and sixth grade would move to Ben Franklin Junior High and to P.J. Jacobs Junior High. The second option is to configure the district with kindergarten to third-grade schools and fourth-grade to sixth-grade schools, with no change to the junior high schools, SPASH or Kennedy Elementary School. From the two options, there are 17 different identified alternatives.
“This is going to be a paradigm shift,” said Fix. “It’s a unique way to look at how to put different grades together. You can address education needs better as opposed to keeping the K-to-6 model we have now.”
Benefits between the two models were discussed by the study committee and the Finance Committee.
Study committee members said that the model of putting ninth- to 12th-grade students together in one high school put all students earning high school credit in one facility, but there would be increased pressure for gym and field space.
“Most other schools in our conference allow sixth-graders to participate in sports but in our district there are very few sports, if any, that allow sixth-graders to participate,” Fix said. “Ninth-graders right at the facility would allow them easier participation with high school activities.”
Jeff Tepp, a member of the study committee and a math teacher at Ben Franklin Junior High School, said the second option is beneficial to the development of students.
“A lot of studies show that if students can read by third grade, they will be more successful,” said Tepp. “This configuration allows kids to be grouped developmentally and age-appropriately and have increased opportunities.”