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Will BEA 8th grade move?

By Staff | Feb 9, 2014

Parents, teachers, School Board members and concerned citizens gathered to voice their opinions about merging the eighth grade into the high school at Blue Earth Area.

And, not everyone was in favor of the idea.

High school principal Rich Schneider led the public meeting and presented the pros and cons of the possible consolidation.

He explains two schools similar to BEA have made this change and have found success with it.

“However, these schools moved the eighth graders because they needed the space,”?Schneider explains. “This is not the case in our situation.”

BEA administration was interested in moving the eighth graders to prepare the students for their future.

“These schools saw much fewer students failing classes in the ninth grade after being integrated at eighth grade,”?Gary Holmseth says.

But, the actual move did not seem to be the main concern with many people in attendance at the public meeting.

The biggest worry for parents and teachers seemed to be the scheduling and curriculum change which would have to happen as a result of the consolidation.

It was previously discussed that art and communications would be cut if the students moved.

“Now, we are thinking we would have to eliminate eighth grade agriculture and art,” Schneider says. “We need to do this to keep the focus on our core classes.”

One audience member said taking away ag classes in a rural community is a shame. Another added art classes provide a more hands on approach to learning which benefits many students, as well.

Schneider presented the possibility of adding an art club to fill the void left by the removal of eighth grade art classes.

“It’s not ideal but to make this work, something has to give,” Schneider says.

Many other comments were made regarding the curriculum and schedule changes.

“I agree, I want more hands on things for our students too, but that’s not the reality of it right now,”?superintendent Evan Gough says. “I feel this discussion is bigger than the eighth grade move and it excites me that you want to have this conversation.”

Other concerns which were voiced included having adequate space and the maturity level of the eighth grade students. Schneider was able to address both points.

“There is adequate space. We have extra lockers and empty classrooms,”?he says.

And, the lunchroom isn’t expected to become crowded either.

“I’d say more than half of the juniors and seniors take advantage of open lunch,”?Schneider says.

However, the eighth graders will have different food requirements and will have to be served in a separate lunch line.

The other concern was whether the incoming eighth grade class would be prepared for the consolidation.

“I think we will always have students who struggle socially,”?Schneider says. “I don’t think this is going to make it any worse.”

After receiving input from the public, the administration hopes to present the proposal to the BEA?School Board on Monday.

“It needs to be done soon because we need to begin planning for registering students for next school year,”?the principal adds.

One concerned member of the audience suggested they wait a year so the school is fully prepared curriculum wise.

“The first year will be our trial run, no matter what,”?Schneider says.

The final decision on the eighth-grade consolidation plan will be made by the School Board after it is presented on Monday, Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m.