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Zeiger sixth graders transition to junior high campus
Zeiger sixth graders transition to junior high campus
Posted on 10/12/2015

Click here to read Heather DeRosa's article published on October 7, 2015 in the Tacoma News Tribune.


Zeiger Elementary sixth graders are attending school this year at Ballou Junior High rather than at their elementary school due to overcrowded conditions that forced some classes to meet last year in the principal’s office because of a shortage of traditional classroom space.


The South Hill elementary school is the first of seven schools throughout the district that have been identified as needing to temporarily shift sixth graders to junior high campuses to relieve overcrowding.


Other schools scheduled to move sixth graders onto junior high campuses 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.


The school board agreed last February to make the moves as a short-term fix until more classroom space is available on crowded elementary school campuses. In some cases, schools are serving several hundred students beyond the number they were built to serve.


The board-approved plan to temporarily move the sixth graders to junior highs with available space will be reviewed annually.


A Puyallup School District school bond on the November 3, 2015 General Election ballot proposes adding classroom space by building a new school in the southwest region; replacing and expanding Firgrove, Northwood, and Sunrise elementary schools; and creating more classroom space and making other building improvements at Pope Elementary.


It takes an average of three years to build and open a new elementary school.


Smooth transition to junior high


Students and staff report a smooth transition this fall of Zeiger Elementary sixth graders to the Ballou Junior High campus.


“They are totally adapting and enjoying some of the independence of being on a junior high campus, including having more than one teacher during the day,” said Principal Krista Bates. “It’s gone very smoothly.”


Bruin Ambassadors — junior high students chosen by teachers to be student leaders on campus — greeted the incoming sixth graders, many of whom were accompanied on the first day by their parents. The students had already spent a morning on the campus and had lunch there before school let out in June.


The Bruin Ambassadors joined Bates, Assistant Principal Jennifer Fox, and other staff members in guiding students to a morning gathering area in the Commons, as well as helping them get to class once the bell rang.


Ninth grader and Bruin Ambassador Nate Job came to Ballou Junior High as a seventh grader from Firgrove Elementary. He said he remembers the anxiety of starting junior high, especially finding classes and trying to fit in on the first day.


He said he tried to calm some of the sixth graders’ nerves this fall by shaking their hands and chatting with them as they walked through the front doors.

Associated Student Body President Brennah Llanos, also a ninth grader, added, “I hope they are going to have the best experience of their life in junior high. I want them to know this school is safe and we always have their back. I want them to feel comfortable and have a smile on their face.”


Sixth grader Hannah Frary said she likes being able to move between classes and have different teachers. The newest Ballou Bruin also said she passed by “and said ‘hi’” to several former Zeiger Elementary students who are now seventh graders.


Fellow sixth grader Prince Romeo Ka’ua’aliimoeuhane Sarcedo said one of the benefits of being on a junior high campus is having more food choices for lunch, including pizza. He said he was nervous his first day but has felt relaxed ever since.


Sixth grader Adam AlMousawi added, “I like the entire campus — the teachers here, the lunches, the independence, and having multiple teachers.” AlMousawi said he hopes to be able to sign up for the junior high intramural basketball team this winter.


While there is a separate partitioned area in the Commons for sixth graders who want to gather before school with same-age classmates, Bates said most have chosen to wait for the morning bell in the courtyard or larger Commons area with all other junior high students.


Sixth graders attend classes at Ballou Junior High in a cluster of temporary instructional spaces, commonly referred to as portable classrooms. The portables, including one converted into restrooms exclusively for sixth graders, are located on the south end of campus adjacent to the permanent classroom buildings.


Students 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 have one teacher for English and social studies, and another for science and math.


They don’t have recess like their peers at the elementary schools; however, they do receive more specialist time (one hour of general elementary music instruction and one hour of P.E. every other day), Bates said.


Sixth graders also had an opportunity to enroll in an hour of beginning band or orchestra, which is held each day during fourth period (also known as “Den Time”). Those who aren’t signed up for band or orchestra participate in learning enrichment or intervention activities, Fox said.


“Changing teachers and classes is a good transition to seventh grade,” Fox said.


During the first week of school, Bates visited each of the four sixth-grade classes and asked students to share their impressions of the first few days on the junior high campus.

“Their comments were overwhelmingly positive,” Bates said. “They like having more than one teacher, and many of them said they love the food and having lunch in the cafeteria.”


The one concern expressed, she said, was about long lunch lines. “I assured them the lines would get faster once students memorized their student identification numbers that they enter each time they order lunch,” she said.


Sixth graders have P.E. with sixth-grade classmates in the gym; eat lunch with other sixth graders and some seventh graders in the Commons; attend school assemblies with all seventh- through ninth-grade junior high students; have access to junior high support services such as the nurse, librarian, and counselor; and are invited to participate in leadership opportunities and after-school junior high intramural sports, clubs, and activities.


“They are Ballou Bruins and part of the culture here at Ballou Junior High,” Bates said.


Zeiger Elementary Principal Cari Ake said she is pleased that the sixth-grade transition has gone smoothly. While the school misses the sixth-grade leadership, she said fifth graders “have really stepped up and accepted the responsibility.”


The sixth-grade move to Ballou Junior High has enabled the elementary school to have enough space to ensure that each teacher has an appropriate teaching space, she said.

“We no longer have teaching taking place in tiny offices,” Ake said. “However, even without our sixth-grade students, Zeiger Elementary does not have any additional classroom spaces left vacant. We continue to grow almost daily.”