Details of a broad proposal to move the town’s sixth-graders into Ledyard Middle School and extend the district’s kindergarten classes to full-day were presented to the Board of Education Wednesday by schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Graner.
Graner had been asked by the board to explore the possible changes and make a report. He said compliance with new state and federal educational standards is driving the proposal.
For example, new standards for sixth-grade math are quite rigorous, he said. Consequently, the class is more appropriately taught by subject matter experts certified to teach at the secondary level.
At the same time, academic standards for kindergarten also are more rigorous. “People get teary-eyed over it, but the fact is we’re not likely to meet (the new standards) with our current half-day program,” he said.
Graner said the first question is how to fit the town’s sixth-graders into its only middle school – a prospect that almost certainly would require construction of a new sixth-grade wing.
Although school enrollment in Ledyard has dropped by about 12 percent in recent years, there are nevertheless about 180 sixth-graders that would need to move into a building now housing approximately 390 seventh- and eighth-graders.
“The second question would be ‘how do we pay for this?’” Graner said.
There is also a personnel question. The district now employs nine sixth-grade teachers, some of whom may wish to become certified to teach secondary math, science, and so on.
Graner said the state typically provides two-thirds funding for school construction, but he noted that a recent library improvement project was defeated by Ledyard voters. Holding the line on taxes has been an annual refrain among town officials and Ledyard alike.
Ledyard Middle School was built in 1972, Graner said. The layout features open classrooms that were thought to be visionary at the time, but may not make the best use of available space.
Should the school board decide to move forward with the proposal, Graner said the next step would be to hire an architectural firm to provide some more specific recommendations.