If SVSD annexes Snoqualmie Middle School to Mount Si before we have a replacement middle school, are there negative impacts for our middle school students? Yes, Snoqualmie students will have long bus routes, some to the eastern edge of North Bend and some to Fall City. That’s a given. There is immediate over-crowding at the middle school level solved by adding 14 portable classrooms to CKMS and TFMS. Because Twin Falls is near capacity, it stands to see the most portables on its grounds. There are concessions to make; more lunch periods, busier hallways, more lockers to add, more students filling after school sports teams and limited practice space.
Administration says there could be some benefits, though. Larger middle schools might mean increased and more flexible exploratory classes, maybe foreign language again. Some CKMS parents say their school won’t feel like a ghost town anymore; dances will be more fun with more kids. The teacher to student ratio would remain intact so learning won’t suffer.
There is an important consideration, though. Do we know the educational impacts of going back to a two middle school model? Should we research this? There are over 1,400 middle school students impacted; roughly the same number helped at the high school level by annexing SMS. SVSD moved to a three middle model in 2008 as a solution for overcrowding in its two middle schools and future growth. At the peak, in 2007/08, Chief Kanim Middle School had 710 students. Snoqualmie Middle School had about 650. Larger classes were on the way. Twin Falls Middle School was the solution.
Yet, Mount Si High School is growing too. The portables installed in 2009 can help at most until 2014 – 2015. Enrollment projections show the added capacity of a Freshman Learning Center provides space after that time.
Enter the problem. Without a replacement middle school for SMS, your capacity problems are not solved. They are only band-aided with portables and increased busing at the middle school level. How do you decide who you help first? Who is more important? That’s ultimately what this school board is deciding.
There was a missing component in last week’s “Two Middle School Model” presentation given to the school board. Missing was research on what might happen to middle school education if we go backwards, back to two middle schools. Some of that research is available via the WA State OSPI School Report website. Here is a comparison of the average middle school (combined 6th, 7th, 8th) test scores from 2007/08, the last year with two crowded middle schools, to test scores from the 2010/11 school year, three years into the new three middle school model and the latest results available. The results are pretty dramatic.
The average middle school student’s test scores (percentage of students exceeding state standards) increased as follows: reading up from 79.8% to 82%; math scores up from 64.95% to 78.3%; writing went from 84.7% to 91.37%; and science went from 75.5% to 87%.
There are many factors surrounding schools’ test performances, but the results are a big part of judging if our educational programming is working. Is the smaller middle school size a factor in these increasing test scores? I would wager that in some way, yes, it is. Cliff Brown, Valley Voters For Education President, agrees and does not support the annexation without a replacement middle school. He states, “That’s why I campaigned so hard to provide a third middle school if SMS was to be annexed for MSHS – to keep that new mojo found in a three middle school model.”
This is important data. In 2013 I will have a 9th grader and a 6th grader. Am I willing to jeopardize one child’s education for the others? Or do I want equal? The only way to stay equal is to replace SMS before annexing it to the high school. That is what’s best for ALL students and the solution recommended by the SVSD Long Term Facilities Planning Committee. Their recommendation, or what they determined best for all students, was to annex SMS to the high school AND build a replacement middle school; not house displaced students in portables. It was a two-part recommendation. Ask yourself, is taking one without the other putting the education of some students in front of others? Is there time for one more bond try next year?