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Letters to the Editor

9th-grade shift

April 7, 2010

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To the editor:

We loved our time at Central Junior High School, including the fact that we spent our freshman year of high school there. Teachers reminded us how important our grades were; we knew we were officially in high school. But we were 14, just starting to figure out who we were, and felt like the world was ours.

In junior high, we went downtown for fun. We went to movies. Our parents picked us up and took us where we needed to go. We had sleepovers.

In high school, the social scene changed dramatically — especially for those of us from junior high schools that were split between the two high schools. Parties (with their associated drugs, alcohol and influence from older students) became more commonplace and cliques dominated the social landscape.

But what does this have to do with academics? Everything. To many high school students, school is a social exercise with academics as a side note (at worst) or as a pathway to college (at best). We make it through; most of us learn quite a lot, but the learning process is social just as much as it is academic.

The cushion of having just one more year to grow up a bit before hanging out with 18-year-olds was wonderful.

As we learned in high school, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. We ask that careful consideration be taken before making this change: Is having 14-year-olds through 18-year-olds in the same school the best option?

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for taking the time. This food for thought may well determine how fast families want their children to grow up. Our children get there soon enough without additional prodding.

Children are not invincible. They are still fragile in spite of how old we parents may think they are.

Kookamooka 4 years, 8 months ago

In 9th grade, my class made the shift to the four year high school. I was grateful to be playing "ball" with the big kids. I ponied up, worked hard, kept my head down and survived. Did I date older boys, yep. Did I do drugs? no. Did I have fun and make good grades. Yep.

Students are encouraged from Pre-K on to "make good choices." 9th grade at the Jr. High isn't a drug free place. Those choices are going to present themselves whether the kids are in Jr. High or at a four year high school.

It's time for the 9th graders in Lawrence to grow up and face, head on, the same challenges that the 9th graders in every other district in Kansas face. If we, as parents, did anything right, they will choose the correct paths or learn the hard knock lessons that will help them make good choices in the future. Parents should be involved every step of the way. The kids are alright.

LadyJ 4 years, 8 months ago

Great letter, thanks for taking the time to write. What is our graduation percentage as compared to other school districts? Maybe this should be looked at when making this decision. If it is higher than most, maybe the 9th grade placement is why. It would be interesting to here from someone who maybe moved to a new city during 9th grade and experienced both scenarios.

mom_of_three 4 years, 8 months ago

exact point, kookamooka.
I was in the first freshmen class to be moved to the high school in our home town. It was a little intimidating, but any first day at high school is.

There can be alcohol, drugs and influences from high school students while kids are in junior high. It's not like they never interact. So that point is, well, a little weak, girls. High school is not a big, bad place.

akt2 4 years, 8 months ago

My child will be a 9th grader next year. She is not in the USD 497 district, so will be in high school. I think it will be fine. This year's 8th graders are ready to move on. They are academically ready, and they are socially ready. There will be older neighbor kids, and siblings of classmates that they know. I'm not worried about bullying, drugs or alcohol. I will make a point of knowing the teachers, networking with other parents, attending events and being a visible and accessible parent.

akt2 4 years, 8 months ago

My child will be a 9th grader next year. She is not in the USD 497 district, so will be in high school. I think it will be fine. This year's 8th graders are ready to move on. They are academically ready, and they are socially ready. There will be older neighbor kids, and siblings of classmates that they know. I'm not worried about bullying, drugs or alcohol. I will make a point of knowing the teachers, networking with other parents, attending events and being a visible and accessible parent.

Maxwell Butterfield 4 years, 8 months ago

Everybody keeps talking like kids lose their purity when they go on to high school, and that in junior high, they still children who cannot function the way every other kid in Kansas is expected to function. If I were one of the kids being affected by this change, I would be offended at the lack of confidence these adults have that I would sucumb to the pressures of a more mature enviornment.

It's time, Lawrence. Let them go.

geekyhost 4 years, 8 months ago

I had a four year high school, and I couldn't leave middle school fast enough. Social cliques are worse in high school? Not at mine, they weren't. It gave me the chance to excel by taking advanced subjects and having more resources available for specialized interests. I finally got to start making grown up choices. And those choices didn't involve wild parties, just like being in middle school didn't prevent classmates from getting pregnant or high.

I can't say whose experience was more typical, but I'd like to see data before drawing a conclusion about which choice is right. If you want to keep the 9th grades open, persuade the city to raise the mil levy. Otherwise, I don't see it happening.

gatekeeper 4 years, 8 months ago

I was in the last 9th grade classes in the Shawnee Mission district and was so glad I wasn't a freshman at the high school level. I think 9th grade should be left in the junior highs. I saw a little drug activity by the end of my 9th grade year. The first week in high school was a real eye opener. Drugs were being done openly in the bathrooms and parking lots. Kids were having sex in the parking lot. Us kids grew up a lot when we went to high school because of what we saw and were exposed to (and this was a nice, SM school over 20 years ago). The junior highs do shelter kids more from these things, and that's a good thing. Kids are growing up so fast now and at just 14 it's good for them to still be kids. I don't understand parents wanting to rush their children and have them hanging out with much older kids. I knew junior and senior guys that loved trying to date the freshman girls because more of them will be ....... I knew one girl that unfortunately got pregnant by one of these older guys.

Thank you for writing this letter girls. It's better for the community to hear from the kids. In the end, this is all about what is in the best interest of the kids, not what it more convenient for the district and parents.

geekyhost 4 years, 8 months ago

If there were kids openly doing drugs and having sex on school grounds, I think there's more to deal with than just which school the 9th graders attend.

Kash_Encarri 4 years, 8 months ago

Newsflash - there's drugs being done at all of the jr. high schools in this town. You all might like to bury your heads in the sand and think this isn't the case, but that won't change the fact it exists. Some additional breaking news for you, at least two of the jr highs are dealing with girls - not even in 9th grade yet - who are pregnant.

Moving 9th graders to the high school will not expose them to anything they aren't already seeing. You, as parents, have to trust that the lessons you have taught them at home will get them through those experiences. Of course if you haven't already discussed these issues with your kids, it may be too late anyway.

LadyLuck 4 years, 8 months ago

I came from a school where 9th was in the highschool. I remember in 7th & 8th grade still finding a way to date highschool boys. Hang out with highschool girls, and ultimately go to highschool parties. Did I drink, a little (never got drunk though, not until I was in the highschool) Did I do drugs, nope, it wasn't even presented to me (until I was in highschool). But these things are going to present themselves when they will. Regardless of where a child is in the hierarchy of junior high, middle school, or high school. The only thing we can do is hope that we've raised our children right, so they know which choices are the best choices.

gatekeeper 4 years, 8 months ago

If you were finding ways to date high school guys and go to high school parties when you were a 7th grader, then your parents didn't teach you to make good choices.

gr3sam 4 years, 8 months ago

"As we learned in high school, just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it right. " Ladies, y'all are wise beyond your years!

"It's time for the 9th graders in Lawrence to grow up and face, head on . . ." You're either naive or ignorant. A 14 year old is incapable of this. The sad reality is that parents are not involved in every step along the way. Indeed, the increasing majority are only minimally involved. I see this every single day, and it is a sad truth.

7-9 in junior high is a glowing success in Lawrence, as is 10-12 in high school. It ain't broke, don't mess with it!

The answer, as Merrill pointed out in another post, is to simply cut the fat at the top. Dr. Dolt does not need 25 assistants!

LadyJ 4 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the information. Food for thought.

Steve Jacob 4 years, 8 months ago

The school district just has to find the best way to educate all kids with the money they have. If that means sending 9th graders to high school, so be it.

George_Braziller 4 years, 8 months ago

I was surprised when I moved to Lawrence nearly 30 years ago to find out that ninth graders were in junior high.

The high school I graduated from has had all four grades since 1887 when the first building was constructed.

mom_of_three 4 years, 8 months ago

It's riculous to think that keeping kids in 9th grade in junior high is keeping them in a bubble away from drugs and alcohol. It doesn't.

StirrrThePot 4 years, 8 months ago

"I had a four year high school, and I couldn't leave middle school fast enough. Social cliques are worse in high school? Not at mine, they weren't. It gave me the chance to excel by taking advanced subjects and having more resources available for specialized interests. I finally got to start making grown up choices. And those choices didn't involve wild parties, just like being in middle school didn't prevent classmates from getting pregnant or high. "


I am with you, geekyhost. I had the same experience. Middle School was terrible for me, I could not WAIT until high school even though I was going to be looked down upon as the newbie being in the 9th grade. You are not sheltered from bad choices or experiences in junior high, and kids have to start high school sometime. As it turns out, high school for me was so much better than middle school. I think I would have screamed if I'd had to be in MS one more year.

Additionally, there was a standing rule in my house that you could not date until you were 16, there was no change socially there. My folks would not let me go to parties with the older HS students unless they knew the kids' parents. It is up to the parents to still be active in their kids' lives even as they become more independent teens. You can't control everything but you still have some control.

spiff 4 years, 8 months ago

"Is having 14-year-olds through 18-year-olds in the same school the best option?"

Yes.

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