Families learn more about the soon-to-open NEMS

Posted February 26, 2014 at 12:00 am

By Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
February 26, 2104

MS Draft Final.tif

Several families recently got a better idea of where their sons and daughters could attend middle school next school year.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, roughly 20 parents and students met with Cynthia Johnson, lead administrator for the Kansas City Public Schools middle schools, to learn about attendance boundaries, uniforms, and the floor plans for the two middle schools – Northeast Middle School and Central Middle School – set to reopen to students this fall. Currently, the schools are going through a renovation. Johnson gave a short presentation, with the help of several students who translated for family members, on the philosophies of the new schools before discussing boundaries and other items.

“The students can expect safe and inviting schools with personalized learning, highly qualified educators, engaging curriculum and block scheduling,” Johnson said. The blocks include four, 90 minute classes.

The schools will also use a neighborhood concept that Johnson said makes these middle schools unique. A neighborhood means a student will attend classes – math, science, social studies, special education and arithmetic – in one area. The only time the student would leave the neighborhood is for elective classes. Students will be assigned to different groups by random assignment and each neighborhood could contain up to 120 students assigned to five teachers in the neighborhood. Students will also have the opportunity to enroll in various elective classes, including physical education, band and pre-engineering. Clubs and after-school activities will also be available to the students.

“Students will be leading their learning,” Johnson said. “We are going to embrace the diversity of every single student.”

Jesse Lange, urban planner with the school district, discussed the draft plan for middle school boundary lines. He said the schools want three things to factor into the decision of the draft: the schools should be close to the same number of students in attendance, boundary assignments to last a while so there are no change and a design that would allow children who attended the same elementary school to attend the same middle school.

“We’re presenting a draft scenario and want your opinion,” Lange said.

For the 2014-15 school year, only children in seventh grade will attend the new middle schools. Then, for the 2015-16 school year, eighth grade students will be ushered in. By the 2015-16 school year, Central Middle School should have approximately 574 students where as Northeast Middle School will have about 676 students. Lange said the timeline to have the boundaries established is late March.

“We want to give families enough time to make plans,” Lange said.

As she began talking about uniforms, Johnson said she believes it is important how a student looks and presents themselves when they arrive at school. Johnson noted although students will be in uniforms, they will have the opportunity to earn special dress days. With uniforms, she said the schools will increase a sense of belonging and school pride.

“It will also help deter peer pressure to buy the latest, trendy clothing,” Johnson said.

Students and families currently have the opportunity to vote on which uniforms will be selected for each school. There are two sets of choices. Either both middle schools will have their own uniform colors or there will be one uniform selected for both schools. If the separate uniforms are selected, then the uniforms will be based off the school’s colors: purple for Northeast Middle School and Central Middle School students royal blue. The second option is navy blue at both schools. Khaki pants would apply to both schools.

Johnson also told the students and parents the schools have been interviewing for staff positions since December. She said she hopes to have both schools fully staffed by the end of March. Parents also asked about bus routes and school hours, but Johnson said those decisions have not yet been finalized. She hopes to have that and all other information available to families as soon as possible for them to prepare for the next school year.

“I know that if children are successful in school they have a greater likely hood to be successful as adults,” Johnson said.