/ Modified may 2, 2019 11:02 a.m.

TUSD Mulls Plan to Keep Sixth Graders in Elementary School

The idea presented by the superintendent is still in the works, but would mean dismantling non-magnet middle schools and establishing junior highs.

TUSD Governing Board Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo shared his idea to move sixth graders back to elementary schools and house only seventh and eighth grade students in junior high schools at a Governing Board meeting April 30, 2019.
Emma Gibson/AZPM

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Tucson Unified School District is considering transforming its non-magnet middle schools into junior highs.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo shared his idea to move sixth graders back to elementary schools and house only seventh and eighth grade students in junior high schools at a Governing Board meeting Tuesday night. Trujillo said this restructuring may help middle schools address teacher vacancies and student discipline issues.

Trujillo said in the 2017-18 academic year, 740 fifth grade families chose not to enroll their child in a TUSD middle school.

"We have a customer base very loudly telling us that there is concern with the TUSD sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade experience," said Trujillo.

He said he hopes the shift will better prepare sixth graders for the transition to junior high and high schools.

"Sixth grade becomes the vehicle to take an entire year to make sure that these 12-year-old young adults are fully ready for the bridge from a largely self-contained community environment into one that is now departmentalized," said Trujillo.

This proposed change would impact elementary school students who would have gone to a non-magnet middle school.

Trujillo said he envisions sixth grade being the year teachers increase student responsibilities and prepare their pupils to switch classrooms for every subject.

Trujillo suggested Wakefield Family Resource Center become one of the new junior highs. Director of Planning Services Bryant Nodine said the project it would cost $2.3 million to get the building ready for students.

Nodine believes it would cost an additional $150,000 to move the current occupants out of Wakefield.

Nodine also said to house the sixth graders four to five elementary schools in the district would need about 10 portables. He said it would cost $700,000 to buy the additional classrooms over a couple of years.

He estimates that by keeping sixth graders in elementary and establishing junior highs, the district would receive $3.5 million in enrollment funding each year.

The board expressed concern about the plan and asked Trujillo questions about costs, location and research. Trujillo said he will bring answers back to the board in future study sessions.

He said if the TUSD board decides to approve his proposal, it won't happen until the fall of 2020 at the earliest.

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