In response to parents’ concerns, the School Board on Thursday unanimously approved adding a sixth grade at Margaret Keating Elementary School.
The school’s four fifth-graders will have the choice of going to Crescent Elk Middle School or staying at the Klamath school for sixth grade next fall. And the board will consider bringing the seventh and eighth grades back to the school next year.
The board’s decision comes after district officials conducted two community meetings in Klamath, surveyed students and parents and collected input from Margaret Keating’s principal and teachers. Education officials from the Yurok Tribe also provided input, saying they were always in favor of having a middle school in Klamath.
In two surveys, 18 parents were asked how the district should go about returning grades six through eight to Margaret Keating. In the first survey, which netted 10 responses, most parents were in favor of returning grades seven and eight for the 2014–15 school year, said Steve Godla, the district’s superintendent of instructional and educational services.
In the second survey, which netted 13 responses, more parents were in favor of returning grades six, seven and eight to Margaret Keating, Godla said. District officials and Margaret Keating teachers believe the best way to reintroduce middle school in Klamath is to bring back the grades a year at a time, he said.
Even if all three grades were returned to Klamath, parents could still choose to send their middle-schoolers to Crescent Elk by bus, Godla said.
Adding sixth grade, and eventually seventh and eighth, to Margaret Keating should help boost enrollment, said Superintendent Don Olson. At this time last year 80 students attended Margaret Keating, he said. Now, the school’s enrollment has dwindled to 70. Adding a grade level will help the school retain a teacher, Olson said.
Before casting a vote in favor of adding sixth grade to Margaret Keating, board member Lori Cowan questioned whether the school would have the enrollment to support seventh and eighth grades.
Board member Frances Costello said she could live with adding sixth grade to Margaret Keating, but likely wouldn’t favor adding grades seven and eight.
“I don’t see how seventh- and eighth-graders would get the same quality education at Margaret Keating than at Crescent Elk,” she said. “There’s a lot more opportunity at Crescent Elk.”
Margaret Keating has been a K-5 school since 2005, when the School Board eliminated grades six through eight and bused students to Crescent Elk. According to Amber Cron, who serves as the local California Teachers Association representative, middle school was discontinued at Margaret Keating to facilitate an easier transition for Klamath students who would eventually attend Del Norte High School.