Oct. 2010 Column

The first day of school next August will mark an epic change for Hobbs Municipal Schools. Think about it. This year’s fifth-graders – about 700 of them –will move up to a new middle school system which shifts from educatingseventh and eighth graders to a sixth-through-eighth grade division. We’re increasing grades in our current junior highs by one third while easing overcrowding in our elementary schools.
Accordingly, sixth-grade teachers
will also transfer out of their current elementary schools into classroomsat Highland, Houston or the current Freshman High School on the Heizer campus. Of course the Heizer campus, which will convert from a ninth grade school, will also have a new principal and staff by that time.
 In the meantime, the newly constructed Freshman High School will open its doors to this year’s  612 eighth graders. But not before desks, chairs and books are moved into the impressive building currently going up on the HHS campus.
To undertake any one of these changes in a single year would be significant. Doing all at the same time is, well, monumental. As the district continues to publicly debate the physical logistics of this change- by that I mean assigning zoning districts for the three middle schools  -please be assured that we’re working to insure a smooth academic transition as well.
Based on comments during our three public redistricting meetings in October, it’s clear to me that parents are worried about how their sixth-graders will adapt to a middle school setting. Plus, they are curious about other details as well. For example, will sixth-graders be eligible for athletics (the answer is no);  will grades be separated for lunch (the answer is, yes, if possible); and whether current out of zone students will be allowed to remain at their current school (students and their siblings who previously attended that school will receive top priority). And all parents want to know how teachers will be chosen for the Heizer campus.
 Here’s what I can tell you so far.
 A series of open houses for fifth graders and their parents are already in the planning stages for next spring. I assure you that each student will be familiar with everything from their lunch room to their locker before they arrive for their first class. Teachers will also serve as a nurturing force when those 12-year-old students make the switch from being king of the elementary school hill this year to low-man on the middle school totem pole next year.
In the meantime, administrative and staff meetings began in August and will continue through next August on the dozens of topics related to this huge educational shakeup. Many of those meetings focus on the curriculum that will be instructed in the middle schools and the way in which HMS will provide students at all of our campuses the best education possible.
Finally, we’ve already completed a process in which we asked teachers who have K-8th grade endorsements to volunteer for themiddle-school campus where they would like to instruct. We’ll make every effort to honor those requests but we also will focus on insuring that each campus has an equal number of veteran teachers who can serve as mentors for the rest of the staff. Our emphasis is to provide the same quality education regardless of campus location.
To sum it up, we recognize that your child is your most prized possession. That’s why HMS is focused this year on making what could be a tumultuous transition as smooth as possible for student and teacher alike next year. It’s an incredible undertaking at a pivotal time in our school district’s history. Have no fear though. HMS will be ready for 2011’s first day of school. It will be epic!
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