Mohawk aims to move sixth grade in 2019

  • Sanderson Academy

Recorder Staff
Published: 1/14/2018 10:54:08 PM

BUCKLAND — If the Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s plan to move sixth-graders to the middle school is approved by member towns, today’s fourth-grade classes at Sanderson Academy, Buckland-Shelburne and Colrain Central could become the first sixth-graders to go to Mohawk Trail Regional School in the fall of 2019.

Community meetings have recently been held at Mohawk schools, so that School Committee members could explain the plan, answer questions, and get feedback from townspeople and families about the school system’s future. The next one takes place Thursday, Jan. 18, at the Colrain Central School, beginning at 7 p.m. This meeting had originally been scheduled for Jan. 4, but was postponed due to the snowstorm.

On March 14, the school board will vote on whether to adopt the measure. If it votes yes, a warrant article will go to the towns for an annual town meeting vote. If all eight member towns vote in favor, then the district’s sixth-grade classes will move to the Mohawk middle school in the fall of 2019.

According to Superintendent Michael Buoniconti’s presentation, Grades 6, 7 and 8 would be housed in the current middle school wing, and the sixth grade will follow a “middle school type model with students rotating from class to class, but with more developmentally appropriate support than the seventh and eighth grades.”

All sixth-graders would be able to join chorus, band, theater, art, woodshop and other elective offerings, and will have access to most sports teams.

During the 1996-97 school year, Mohawk had 1,791 students enrolled in all grades, but this year’s enrollment now totals 944. That includes a 46 percent drop — or 399-student enrollment decline — at the high school alone. It also reflects the loss of about 30 Heath Elementary School students, who may have enrolled in the Hawlemont Regional School or other schools since the Heath school closing in June.

One argument in favor of moving all sixth-graders to one location is it creates an economy of scale; if there is no change in fourth-grade enrollment over the next two years, leaving the sixth-graders in their respective elementary classes would mean separate sixth-grade classes of nine students in Colrain, 14 students at Sanderson and 32 students at Buckland Shelburne Elementary (BSE). Educating all 55 sixth-grade students in one building would reduce the number of teachers required, while giving the students a broader social experience and access to art, music and other electives offered at the middle school.

Another issue to be discussed at the Colrain Central School meeting is the future of Colrain Central School, and whether it should be closed, as the Heath school was in June. At this point, the superintendent is not recommending closure of the 102-student Colrain school, because of growing pre-kindergarten enrollment at BSE and Sanderson. Buoniconti said the Mary Lyon Foundation offices have been moved out of BSE and into the high school building, to make more room for the elementary classes. BSE currently has 306 students and Sanderson has 197.

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