Parents divided on sixth-graders heading to Hyattsville Middle -- Gazette.Net


Sixth-grade classes will no longer be offered at Hyattsville Elementary and Riverdale Elementary schools, leaving some parents worried about how younger students will adjust to their new surroundings.

Almost the entire upcoming sixth-grade class from Hyattsville Elementary School — 72 students — will attend Hyattsville Middle in the 2013-2014 school year, under boundary changes adopted by the Prince George’s County school board in February. Some of fifth-grade students will go to other middle schools because they fall outside the new boundary lines for Hyattsville Middle.

Riverdale Elementary School in Riverdale Park will send 39 rising sixth-graders to the middle school as well as part of the changes. About 78 rising sixth-graders from Riverdale Elementary will also attend William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale.

Hyattsville and Riverdale elementary schools will only consist of Head Start and pre-kindergarten students to fifth-grade students.

The move is part of an effort the school system has been implementing in recent years to have all middle schools serve sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, which board members say will be beneficial for students as they will be among an older classmates and have access to new courses.

Hyattsville Middle School Principal Kimberly Washington said it is common throughout Prince George’s for sixth-grade students to attend middle schools.

Of the county’s 25 public middle schools, all but five have a sixth-grade class, although the goal is to have sixth grade in all middle schools, said Briant Coleman, school system spokesman.

Washington said sixth-grade students will have access to Creative and Performing Arts Department, a magnet program offering classes in drama, band, orchestra, dance, creative writing, visual arts and media arts, through daily elective courses. She said the school has prepared three classrooms to accommodate the new students, and will add three additional teachers.

Bart Lawrence, parent-teacher association president for Hyattsville Elementary, said the move would benefit the school by lowering enrollment, which is over capacity by 122 students.

“I think also by making the middle school a three-year rather than two-year school, it might increase family involvement and engagement in the school for longer,” Lawrence said, who has a third-grader and a kindergartner at Hyattsville Elementary.

Hyattsville Elementary School Principal Julia Burton said the sixth-grade class will benefit from moving to a school where they will have access to various teachers for multiple subjects rather than one instructor.

Last week, Hyattsville Elementary students from fifth and sixth grade toured the middle school, Burton said, and counselors have also come to speak with students about the transition.

“We are going to miss the kids, but we couldn’t block this academic opportunity for them,” Burton said.

But Nubia Majano, a parent of an eighth-grader at Hyattsville Middle, said she was concerned that some of the older students might bully the sixth-graders.

“The [older] kids could be a bad influence on the young kids,” she said. “I’m just not happy with this.”

Aaliyah Washington, 11, a Hyattsville Elementary fifth-grader, said she was ready to switch to Hyattsville Middle because she wants to interact with her classmates in a new environment, although she would miss her brother Alonso Washington, 8, a second-grader at the school.

“I want to be with the class as they leave,” Aaliyah said.