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4.18.15: Some sixth graders to move to junior highs to ease crowding
4.18.15: Some sixth graders to move to junior highs to ease crowding
Posted on 04/28/2015

 In response to continued enrollment growth and a lack of classroom space at overcrowded elementary schools, the Puyallup School Board has approved a three-year plan that moves sixth graders at some of the most heavily impacted schools to junior high schools with available space.


The plan, which will be reviewed annually, begins this fall with the move of Zeiger Elementary sixth graders to Ballou Junior High. Sixth graders will be integrated onto the junior high campus, which also serves grades seven through nine.


Other schools scheduled to move sixth graders onto junior high campuses over the next three years include:





  • Woodland Elementary sixth graders to Aylen Junior High.
  • Sunrise Elementary sixth graders to Ferrucci Junior High.
  • Shaw Road Elementary sixth graders to Ferrucci Junior High.





  • Edgerton Elementary sixth graders to Glacier View Junior High.
  • Northwood Elementary sixth graders to Edgemont Junior High.
  • Mt. View Elementary sixth graders to Edgemont Junior High.

 “It is a pretty significant moment when we move sixth graders to junior highs, and it’s the result of us having a lot of increased growth in the district,” said Director Chris Ihrig. “We anticipate in the next three to five years that even getting worse.”


Ihrig continued, “None of us have been really comfortable with having to do this, but we really have no choice.”


The moves are designed to be a short-term fix, he said, until more classroom space is available on crowded elementary school campuses. Without additional schools, Ihrig said the issue compounds into “a bigger and bigger crisis.”


The February 23 board decision to move forward with the sixth-grade moves comes after a series of community forums held in January and February at Zeiger, Woodland, Sunrise, and Shaw Road elementary schools — four of the sites that will be affected by the sixth-grade moves.


 During the forums Superintendent Tim Yeomans outlined the impacts of growth in the district and the three-year plan to relieve overcrowding, which has been under discussion by the board since November.


In some cases, schools are serving several hundred students beyond the number they were built to serve.


Principals and students prepare for transition


Zeiger Elementary and Ballou Junior High school principals and assistant principals are busy this spring preparing for the transition in September of Zeiger Elementary sixth graders to the junior high.


The school leaders serve on a transition team of staff members who began meeting in March to finalize details surrounding the sixth-grade move.


Students will receive instruction in the same core curriculum (English, math, social studies, and science) as their sixth-grade peers in elementary schools around the district; however, they will have the option to enroll in beginning band or orchestra. 



Sixth graders will be housed in temporary instructional spaces, also known as portable classrooms, near the back of the junior high campus adjacent to the main building.


The incoming Zeiger Elementary students will eat lunch with seventh graders in the school commons; have P.E. in the gym; attend school assemblies with other junior high students; have access to junior high support services such as the nurse, librarian, and counselor; and be invited to participate in after-school junior high intramural sports, clubs, and activities.



“They will be fully welcomed and become part of the culture at Ballou Junior High,” said Ballou Junior High Principal Krista Bates. “They will be Ballou Bruins.”


Plans are to have this year’s fifth-grade Zeiger Elementary students and their parents visit the junior high campus before school lets out in June to welcome them and to answer their questions, Bates said. Similar welcome events are held for incoming seventh graders.


“We are looking forward to the arrival of our sixth-grade students from Zeiger Elementary, and we welcome them as our newest Ballou Bruin family members,” Bates said. “We are excited to work with the teachers and families of our Bruin sixth-grade students, and we will make it our priority to have a smooth transition.”



Ballou leadership students gear up to welcome sixth graders


Ballou Junior High eighth grader Maddie Egan, who is a member of the school’s leadership class this year, has ideas of her own for how to best welcome students, including displaying colorful oversized posters around campus in September.


But first, Egan said she would like to have a letter sent this spring to Ballou Junior High School’s seventh and eighth graders telling them about the sixth graders coming to campus next year and getting them excited to welcome students to junior high.


“This is a really welcoming school,” said Egan, who came to Ballou Junior High from Zeiger Elementary. “I know some parents might be worried about the sixth graders coming to a junior high school, but honestly everyone is so nice and welcoming. And the staff here is amazing!”


Because Zeiger Elementary is so overcrowded, with 830 students in a school built for 550 children, Principal Cari Ake said this year’s fifth graders understand why they need to leave and are looking forward to the move to Ballou Junior High. “They get it,” she said.


In the meantime, Ake is doing everything she can to make sure this year’s fifth graders have a memorable final year at Zeiger Elementary, including allowing them to participate in a practice traditionally reserved for sixth graders.


One of the highlights of being in sixth grade, Ake said, is being able to sit on classroom chairs instead of on the gym floor during school assemblies.


As soon as the school board made its decision, she invited fifth graders to bring their chairs to assemblies for the remainder of this school year.


 Similarly, Bates said she hopes to be able to honor a favorite sixth-grade field trip next year while the students are housed on the Ballou Junior High campus.


For the past several years, Zeiger Elementary sixth graders have taken a field trip known as “BizTown.” During the trip, students assume business roles for a day, taking over all responsibilities of an owner or other business duties at mock storefronts and businesses set up at a facility in Auburn.


 “We will do our best to make that work,” Bates said.


 Fifth graders excited about move to junior high


 While Luke Rushton said he will miss his younger sister and staff members at Zeiger Elementary next year, the fifth grader added he can’t wait to spend his sixth-grade year at Ballou Junior High.


 Rushton said it will be special to be the only sixth graders in the district going to school on a junior high campus for a full day.


“It’s sad to have to leave the people at Zeiger, but I’m feeling pretty excited to get to go to junior high,” he said.


 Fifth grader Adam AlMousawi, who has played football at Ballou Junior High as part of a summer and fall community athletic program, said the junior high campus “looks cool” and is where many of his neighborhood friends attend school.


 AlMousawi said he is eager to see his friends on campus, participate in after-school clubs, and try out for the junior high jazz band. The fifth grader currently takes private bass guitar lessons.


 Fifth-grade classmate Halle Robinson added, “It’s good we are going there because it’s really packed here at Zeiger with students. Also, I think it will be fun to eat in the junior high cafeteria. You get more room to eat, and you can sit by your friends.”


 Robinson said she will definitely miss her elementary school, but added she appreciates that the principal has tried to make their last school year at Zeiger Elementary special by allowing them to sit in chairs at school assemblies and have an entire fifth-grade class photo taken in the gym.


 “It’s all going to be really new next year, including a new principal and lots of new students, but it will be OK,” she said. “I’m excited to go.”


 For more information about the move this fall of Zeiger Elementary sixth graders to the Ballou Junior High campus, visit the a list of commonly asked questions and answers specific to this issue.