Press-Republican

October 29, 2012

Peru Central faculty, parents and students adjust to sixth-grade move

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PERU —  Peru Central’s decision to move the district’s sixth-grade class from the Middle School to the Intermediate School had Jennifer Scotto di Carlo concerned. 

The relocation, primarily to help bridge at $1 million budget gap, was estimated to save the district $200,000 a year by eliminating the need for an assistant-principal position, 1.4 instructional support positions and one clerical support position.

It was completed just in time for Scotto di Carlo’s son, Connor McAuley, to begin sixth-grade this fall. 

And so far, both Connor and his mother have few complaints. 

“As a parent, I am very pleased thus far with the sixth-grade move,” said Scotto di Carlo, secretary of the Peru K-6 Parent Teacher Organization.

FOREIGN LANGUAGES 

Initially, as did other parents, she worried that kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to begin learning a foreign language in the Intermediate School, as they might have had in the Middle School. 

As a result of the move, however, more sixth-graders actually have exposure to foreign languages than before, thanks to the computer-based program Rosetta Stone. 

However, sixth-graders are able to incorporate time into their academic schedules to visit the computer lab and work on the online language lessons with the program Rosetta Stone. 

“I absolutely love Rosetta Stone,” Scotto di Carlo said. 

Still, noted Peru sixth-grade parent Jennifer Dubuque in an email to the Press-Republican, “learning a language by computer kind of makes me feel like the day is coming when they won’t need teachers at all.”

Rosetta Stone, offered with no academic credit, isn’t meant to replace traditional language instruction, said Peru Central Superintendent Dr. Patrick Brimstein. 

The program, he noted, is simply meant to allow kids to explore languages, including Mandarin, Japanese and German, before entering seventh grade. 

“This is pure exposure,” Brimstein said. 

CLASSROOM SIZES

It was also thought the sixth-graders wouldn’t have access to music opportunities in the Intermediate School. 

However, Brimstein said, the school’s teachers and administrators worked together to create a sixth-grade choral group and also a combined fifth- and sixth-grade band and orchestra. 

“They came up with a beautiful and elegant solution,” the superintendent said. 

In addition, Scotto di Carlo said the transition into the Intermediate School was made easier by the school’s Principal Scott Storms, who held an open house for parents at the start of the academic year to familiarize them with the new operation.

“He walked us through the classrooms,” she said. 

Dubuque, however, feels the Intermediate School classrooms are too small to accommodate the sixth-graders.

 And her son, Logan, agrees. 

“I think I would have more fun in the Middle School than in the intermediate,” he said in a separate interview. “It’s just so crowded.

“We’re practically sitting on top of each other.”

Connor, on the other hand, said he is “pretty comfortable” in the classrooms. 

And according to Scotto di Carlo, the classrooms don’t appear to be anymore crowded with sixth-graders than they were with fifth-graders last year. 

Brimstein noted that while he hasn’t measured the rooms, the district spent a lot of time making sure they were in prime shape for the incoming sixth-graders.

“I don’t think that the room size has any way impacted student learning,” he said. 

’GETTING THERE’

Brimstein, who joined the district shortly after the sixth-grade relocation was approved by the School Board last spring, added that the transition seems to have gone smoothly. 

“I know that it was a tough decision last year,” he said, “and I know that the teachers are continuing to adjust.

“I really believe that we’re getting there.”

Though neither Dubuque nor her son feel the move was the right decision, she does feel, given the circumstances, the students are getting the best possible education they can. 

”I know the teachers,” she said. 

”They are the best at what they do, and I am laying my sons’s education in their hands and believing that they are going to do it right.”

Email Ashleigh Livingston: alivingston@pressrepublican.com

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SIXTH-GRADE PROS AND CONS

How do sixth-graders at Peru Central feel about learning in the Intermediate School instead of the Middle School?

"I did like it getting moved down because I happen to know this (intermediate) building a lot more than I do the Middle School," Connor McAuley said.

In addition, he has enjoyed not having to get up earlier in the morning to be at the Middle School, where classes start an hour before his do now.

Another bonus of being in the Intermediate School, he said, is having recess, which he will no longer have when he goes to the Middle School.

Also a consequence, however, is that sixth-graders are now the last in their building to eat lunch.

According to sixth-grader Logan Dubuque, by the time his class goes to the cafeteria at 1:20 p.m., the food has already been picked over by the lower grades.

"When we eat, there's barely anything to eat," he said.

However, the sixth-grade lunchtime is not abnormal, according to Peru Central School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Brimstein.

Lunch periods, he said, tend to range from 10:30 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m. across the district.

In an effort to make Peru Central's fifth-grade graduates feel more like sixth-graders, Brimstein added, they were given their own entrance to the Intermediate Building, as well as schedules that involve moving to different classrooms for some of their lessons.

Still, Logan said of the move, "I think it was a terrible decision."