New Richland is set for adding sixth grade

Published 9:33 am Thursday, May 31, 2012

NEW RICHLAND — As the final days of school wind down, administrators are getting ready for a big move.

Starting this fall, sixth-graders will attend New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva High School in New Richland, and they will join a wing that houses seventh- and eighth-graders in that building. Because of steadily larger class sizes in lower grades like kindergarten, the elementary school in Ellendale was becoming overcrowded. High School Principal Paul Cyr isn’t worried about the move because until three years ago the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders were all housed together in the Ellendale school.

“This will work for students,” Cyr said. “If we felt it wouldn’t work, we would have explored other options.”

Email newsletter signup

A little more than 70 students will make the move this fall, along with three sixth-grade teachers to one wing of the high school building in New Richland. The building is set up so that ninth- through 12th-graders have lockers and classrooms on one end of the building and the younger students have lockers and classrooms on the other end, and both areas are separated by the lunchroom.

“We feel comfortable bringing them here,” Cyr said. “We have great teachers in place — they’re so capable.”

Cyr said he’s looking forward to the teachers being able to create more of a middle school concept where they can discuss what’s working and not working with each other. He said they had been at a disadvantage because it’s harder to communicate with teachers in different buildings.

The district has a total of about 950 students from kindergarten to 12th-grade, and with the move there will be about 500 students at the high school building. Superintendent Kevin Wellen said while the move will have some expenses — like buying about 60 lockers — there haven’t been any major costs incurred on the district.

“It comes down to space — we’re using every inch of space,” Wellen said. “It was a pragmatic solution.”

Wellen said he’s been asked by many people whether the sixth-grade would move back to the elementary building if class sizes start getting smaller again, but he said staff are preparing for this to be a permanent change.

“This will create the middle school concept that will suffice for the long haul,” Wellen said.

The move won’t affect curriculum much for the sixth-graders, but they will be able to receive more art instruction by being at the high school building.