Interim Peru Central School Superintendent is looking at an array of ways to overcome a $1 million deficit, including moving sixth graders back to elementary school.
Peru Central School is considering moving the sixth grade from the middle school to the intermediate school in an effort to save $200,000.
The move would also benefit students, according to research.
That change is among other cost-savings the school district is considering as it tackles a tight 2012-13 spending plan.
“We are at a point in time when like many of the state’s rural school districts we are now entering the fourth extraordinarily challenging budget season,” said Interim Superintendent A. Paul Scott. “We will find ways to respond to the financial environment.”
At this point, it appears Peru Central School may need to identify roughly $1 million in cost reductions, to take effect July 1 forward.
In some certification areas, entire positions will be subject to elimination, such as if the district requires fewer K-6 class sections next school year. In some other certification areas, the least senior colleague within a particular certification area may be subjected to reduced employment.
A few part time positions might no longer be required.
Some of the reductions are as much a result of declining enrollment as cost reductions.
Prospective areas of consideration for cost reductions include administrative, operations supervision, transportation, clerical, custodian, pupil personnel services, K-6 elementary grades and various K-12 and 7-12 content areas.
Once the school board discusses a preliminary list of possible reductions, Scott will be in a position to begin scheduling employment-related meetings with the district employees who might be impacted by cost reductions. Some of the reduced employed could occur through attrition.
“We are also looking at taking the sixth-grade program, which is the first year of our middle school program, and returning it to our intermediate school,” Scott said. “Part of the focus is cost reduction, because it would allow us to reduce costs by $200,000. It would mean starting next school year if we redistribute how students are enrolled on campus in terms of grade span, we would be in a position to administer programs with one less administrator.”
Besides cost savings, Scott said according to research it could be beneficial for students to remain one more year in elementary school.
“It turns out there are benefits to that,” he said. “We are not the only school district across the nation and state that looks at returning grade six to intermediate.”
Early 20th Century American schools placed sixth graders in elementary school, which ended in eighth grade. After World War I, more schools began ending elementary school with sixth grade. In the later part of the 20th Century, millions of sixth graders were moved to middle schools, which most often had grades six through eight.
Today, 75 percent of sixth graders nationwide attend middle school.
Yet sixth grade is a major crossroads in a child’s development, Scott said, and it would seem important to place them in the proper environment during this period.
The Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke university examined whether sixth grade should be part of elementary or middle school.
It noted that a sixth grader is elementary school is among the oldest students there but in the middle school is the youngest with daily exposure to older adolescents.
The study found that sixth graders attending middle schools are more likely to be cited for discipline problems that those attending elementary schools. The higher infraction rates by sixth graders who are placed in middle school persist at least through ninth grade.
The study concluded that there is a strong argument for separating sixth graders from older adolescents.
Scott said that change would also result in cost reductions in terms of classifications of positions.
“We can do the redistribution with less cost to our school community.”