By Mike Zummo
Members of the public came out in force on Thursday night to object to the possibility of moving the 8th grade students from Glen Meadow Middle School to Vernon Township High School.
District Superintendent Karen D’Avino and Board of Education President Justin Annunziata stressed that the move was just a discussion item and not a done deal.
Even if anything were to happen, D’Avino said the earliest would be the 2021-22 school year.
Redistricting has been brought up again as the Board of Education contemplates putting the Walnut Ridge School, which houses the district’s preschool program and the Board of Education office.
Many of the speakers objected to putting Glen Meadow’s eighth graders into a school building with high school seniors.
"Moving from middle school to high school is not easy,” Vernon resident Megan Curry said. “I have seen the emotional struggle of prepubescent boy and seen the social confusion of the girl searching for her teenage identity. I have witnessed success and many struggles and say it with profound confidence that 13-year-old students are not developmentally or socially mature enough to maneuver in a high school setting."
According to D’Avino and Assistant Superintendent Charles McKay said younger students could become more academic, students will be exposed to the high school curriculum and they’d be influenced by higher achieving students.
There also would be a possible savings of $40,000 in bus routes.
McKay pointed to a study that indicates student performance suffers when they transition to a new school.
“Students come into the high school not realizing how important those grades are as freshmen realize it when they are seniors,” McKay said.
Concerns are that eighth-grade students cannot participate in high school athletics and they would need to be transported daily back to Glen Meadow to do so.
“Do I think we need to explore options for the future? Yes,” D’Avino said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s eighth grade at the high school.”
Board member Kelly Mitchell said the initial discussing came when the Facilities Committee heard about bullying and overcrowding at Glen Meadow.
"This is where that conversation came from,” she said. “This is a discussion to see what's the best alternative. It shouldn't have anything do with money or loss of money, but there are times when you concern with that. But our student achievement is paramount over anything else."
And a student did come out and object. Sixth-grader Juliet Miller stressed concern about losing things she’s looking forward to as an eighth-grader
"I listen to these kids and they don't want to go to the high school,” bus driver Valerie Rizzo said. “I hear them say we're going to lose our "eighth-grade dance, our awards.’ This is what the kids are saying. Listen to them."