2nd community meeting held regarding school grades

Following a second community meeting last week, the question of whether Klamath will get a sixth grade and eventually a seventh and eighth grade rests with the School Board.

Del Norte Superintendent Don Olson introduced the concept of bringing sixth grade back to Margaret Keating Elementary School for the 2013andndash;14 school year at the School Board's Thursday meeting. The district will be placing the issue on the board's Feb. 28 agenda for a vote, he said.

During the community meeting in Klamath, Olson said that if the School Board approves reinstating sixth grade at Margaret Keating, the district and community could revisit the idea of reinstating seventh and eighth grade next year.

Olson and Steve Godla, the district's assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services, also presented the outcome of a survey of Klamath students attending Crescent Elk Middle School.

Seventeen students were asked which school they would have attended for sixth grade if they were able to choose and what school they would want to attend for seventh grade if they were able to choose. In both instances, the students overwhelmingly chose Crescent Elk.

Elsie Griffin-Wilder, a kindergarten and after-school program teacher at Margaret Keating, said she held an informal survey of her own when busing kids back to Klamath from Crescent Elk.

"I asked, 'Hey guys do you want to come back to Margaret Keating?'" She said. "I got a resounding 'no.'"

Margaret Keating Principal Diane Weise said the parents of two of her four fifth-graders stated they would want their child to stay at Margaret Keating for middle school in a heartbeat. But one parent wasn't sure.

"They're really trying to think about, 'What's best for my child,'" she said. "They're taking this seriously."

The Yurok Tribe opposed the 2005 decision that discontinued grades six through eight at Margaret Keating, said Jim McQuillen, director of the tribe's Education Department.

During the community meeting, McQuillen asked the district to get input from parents as well as students. He also went before the School Board on Thursday and asked officials about studying how the students are doing academically at Crescent Elk, Castle Rock Charter School or other charter schools.

Special education teacher Amber Cron, who serves as the local California Teachers Association representative, said one of the reasons the district eliminated sixth, seventh and eighth grade at Margaret Keating was to create an easier transition for Klamath students entering high school.

"If there's any data prior to the switch and after the switch, I'd like to see that data," she said. "Were the kids meeting credit (requirements) prior to the transition?"

Shawna Sanderson, who works in Klamath but lives in Crescent City, said her four children attended Margaret Keating. She drives her youngest, a first-grader, to school every morning.

Many employees of the Yurok Tribe live in Crescent City and commute to Klamath, Sanderson said. They worry about where their children go after school. The smaller classroom setting at Margaret Keating benefits students, and the after-school program offers activities until their parents are able to pick them up.

"They are so dedicated," Sanderson said. "The employees give more of their time and money from their own pocket. So they do have a good program."

District officials are also concerned about a drop in enrollment at Margaret Keating, according to Olson. At this time last year, the school had 86 students, he said. Now enrollment has dwindled to 70.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.