Madison Schools Superintendent Lisa Tuttle-Huff makes the case for the district’s plan to move 6th graders into the same school wing as 7 and 8th graders next school year during a parent meeting Tuesday evening. A dozen residents attended the meeting with none criticizing the plan, which Huff said will relieve overcrowding and allow more focus on 6th grade learning. Madison will join a small number of area districts with similar grade configurations.

Some Butler County districts think moving sixth-graders is a key to fixing school overcrowding

The shift will occur at the start of next school year and will see sixth-graders moved from the current pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary wing of the large school in Madison Twp. that houses all grades for the district.

Madison will soon join Edgewood, Talawanda and New Miami Schools among Butler County’s 10 districts in offering the relatively rare grade configuration of sixth-, seventh- and eight-graders in the same building wing or school building.

In southern Warren County, officials at Kings Schools have discussed the possibility of asking residents for a school tax levy in the fall to pay for a new building designed to hold the three-grade combination.

Lisa Tuttle-Huff, superintendent of Madison Schools, said two reasons are motivating the move: Overcrowding and the desire to give sixth-graders more individualized attention.

MORE: Madison Schools parents appealing judge’s gun ruling

Huff met with a dozen school residents at a public meeting at the elementary school and spent her time talking about the factors backing the move with no one raising criticism.

“We want to put an emphasis back on middle school,” said Huff, who explained the sixth-graders will have little contact with seventh- and eighth-graders in the same wing.

“Scheduling will be (off-setting), and they will not be in the hallways at the same time as high school students and will have their own lunch time.

“The sixth grade hallway will be upstairs … this will assure the sixth graders are isolated from the high school students.”

The change does not require school board approval and will be in place when classes at Madison open in August for the 2019-20 school year.

The move also frees up classroom space in the elementary wing to add a needed preschool class, said Huff.

MORE: Madison Schools closer to getting artificial turf for stadium

There are 881 students in the elementary wing’s pre-K through sixth-grade classes, but next year school officials project there will be 769 students in pre-K through fifth grade.

Grouping together grades 6 through 8 is rare in this region, but it has occurred.

In recent years nearby Edgewood Schools converted its old high school into a sixth-through-eighth-grade building.

Talawanda Schools spokeswoman Holli Morrish said its district’s grouping of the three grades has “alleviated some space issues at the elementary level.”

“Each grade level has a wing, but for electives there are a mix of students in grade levels in some courses (and) classrooms for elective courses are located throughout the building,” said Morrish.

New Miami Schools has the smallest enrollment of any of Butler County’s school systems, and like Madison, it has a single, multi-wing school campus for grades K-12.

Superintendent Rhonda Parker said the district adopted the grades 6-8 configuration in 2009 and it has proven successful.

“This model allowed for flexibility to expand class offerings as well as allow for extended time in English and mathematics. The success comes from staff being able to meet the needs of the young adolescent students who face many challenges as 11 to 13 years old do,” said Parker.

Madison school parent Carrie Wilson said she welcomed the change and the district’s using existing school space rather than exploring adding an addition to the pre-K through 12 campus.

“Sixth graders are too old to be in elementary school. And if this keeps them having another (tax) levy to build, I’m for it,” said Wilson.

Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.