San Juan Island School District 6th graders to move to middle school

The San Juan Island School District Board unanimously approved moving the 6th grade to the middle school.

“My main concern is the budget,” board member Brent Snow said, though he added that arguments about educational benefits were compelling.

During the special May 18 school board meeting, about 40 attendees were generally supportive of the move. Of the under 10 people who spoke, a few mentioned concerns about budgetary strains of an additional 60-plus students to the middle school. These speakers were still in favor of the move. Former San Juan Island Principal Court Bell stressed that to integrate the 6th grade successfully there needs to be facilities in place, supportive administration, and an acknowledgment by the community that sixth graders belong in that school.

“I’m glad to see most people here seem to agree with that,” said Bell.

Lack of funding was a sticking point.

“We have no clue how we are going to funded at the state level,” said Board Chairman Ralph Hahn, explaining that the state legislature has yet to pass a budget for the 2017-18 school year.

About four attendees stated that funding was not the main issue.

“The focus should be on the benefits to the children,” said Friday Harbor Elementary School Principal Diane Ball.

Ball explained that being a part of the middle school would provide more interaction with children in their academic range and closer access to higher educational tools like the STEM building. There would also be school counselors and an intervention specialist.

The move was recommended by Superintendant Danna Diaz. Snow added an amendment that a financial commitment be created to ensure a smooth transition, which was accepted. Hahn noted that the 17-18 budget was not finalized and the transition could be a No. 1 priority.

“We can make this work,” Friday Harbor High School Principal Fred Woods said.

For details on the cost of the move, read this article from last January.