Critics of the plan feel that the move is being made more for budgetary and space issues at the elementary schools than for academic benefits of the 5th graders. While it is clear that those issues were major factors in the committee's decision, in the end it appears that they were convinced that done right, the benefits of the plan to the district as a whole far outweighed the drawbacks.
Today's Salem News has details on the thought behind the plan:
School Committee members said last night that they visited several districts with a grade 5-to-8 middle school model, and the reports were largely favorable.Over the past several weeks city and school officials have held five public forums that brought together administration officials, as well as educators from outside districts familiar with the 5-8 model to detail the plan, and address the community's concerns. Throughout the process it became clear that the board was heading toward this decision, but that much had been learned about public process from recent city and school events. The amount of public information and outreach was unprecedented in Beverly, and the committee and administration seem well aware that the ultimate success of the plan demands continued focus and transparency.
“I kept waiting for that red flag, the one that said, ‘God almighty, don’t build a 5-to-8 middle school,’ and it never came,” School Committee President Paul Manzo said.
Some parents had expressed concerns about fifth-graders mixing in with older middle school students. Committee member Kris Silverstein said those worries will be addressed by designing the school as “literally two small schools within a building,” with a lower school for grades 5 and 6 and an upper school for grades 7 and 8.
[Mayor] Cahill said the plan is to “keep our lower and upper school middle-school students separate whenever possible.”...
...[Ward 4 School Committee Rep Matt] Kavanagh said the model will only work if the plan is executed properly.
“To move your young son or daughter out of elementary school is a difficult thing,” he said. “If we prepare well for that transition, it will work well. If we don’t, it won’t work well. It’s all in the execution.”
BevCam filmed last night's meeting and vote, and we will post a link when available.
For those parents new to this issue, a lot of the earlier history of the plan can be found in the archive of this site, beginning in December of 2011, and working backwards from there.