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Middle Schools in Columbus City Schools district could soon be a thing of the past

Columbus City Schools is considering getting rid of its poor performing middle schools. Superintendent Gene Harris suggested the plan at the board meeting Tuesday.

As early as the upcoming school year some Columbus City School sixth graders would remain in elementary school - instead of moving on to middle school. Seventh and eighth graders would go into high school. That's the plan Superintendent Gene Harris proposed. And the first students affected would be those in the Linden neighborhood schools.

Harris said drop out rates are exacerbated by students moving from one school to another. She said eliminating middle schools would help retain students.

The state board of education ranks the majority of Columbus's middle schools with D's and F's. Mark Real, president of Kids Ohio and education advocacy group, said Columbus students perform well in elementary school, but when they get to middle school their grades decline. He agrees with Harris that something needs to be done, but he said there's not a perfect solution.

"Schools used to be kindergarten through 8th grade. Then they had junior highs as you recall it: seventh, eighth and ninth grade. Then they had middle schools that were sixth, seventh and eighth grade. None of those have turned out to be a silver bullet and I doubt that any kind of reorganization by itself is going to do that," Real said.

Bill Wayson is retired from the Ohio State University. Wayson worked in the educational and policy department. He said moving from middle to high school does not affect the drop out rate.

"Frankly, the main reason students drop out of school is the highly impersonal nature of the high school. It's not the transition from one to the other. It's that the training for administrators and teachers and the organization of the school has produced a highly impersonal and uncaring climate for students," Wayson said.

All Franklin County School District have middles. Licking County North Fork Local School district has its senior and junior high students on one campus. Superintendent Scott Hartley said seventh and eighth graders are in one building that is connected to the high school.

"We do everything we can to try to keep the seventh and eight graders away from the high school students, again, going back to maturity and where they are. You know, you have seventh graders coming up from an elementary school and then you have high schoolers that are seniors that are getting ready to graduate. That maturity that age difference is huge," Hartley said.

But Hartley said being on the same campus though has its upside.

"It would make it a lot easier to transition into the high school because they see what's happening. Now the routine, the daily routine, might be a little different but the transition from one grade to another is probably a little easier," he said.

If this new plan is implemented it would be done is shifts. Linden schools would be the first to convert with sixth graders moving to elementary schools as early as next school year. Harris said it will take several months to evaluate the plan.