WFISD Board members question need for sixth grade center

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — At the last Wichita Falls ISD School Board meeting, administrators introduced the concept of a sixth grade center housed at Barwise Middle.

Monday night, board members and community members made their voices heard in even more discussion.

With low STAAR test results on the mind of some board members, they question how a school for all sixth graders will be more beneficial than what is currently in place.

New high schools that will hit WFISD in 2024 are shifting the entire school system.

A Texas COVID learning acceleration supports grant is allowing the district to design a new school.

For WFISD, they are looking at a sixth grade center that will begin at Kirby next year then move to Barwise in 2024. Superintendent Mike Kuhrt said the Texas Education Agency supports the district on this venture.

“So they said we needed to consider this because they wanna help us plan a better future for our students. It’s about a new school model, creating a new school model,” Kuhrt said.

Kuhrt said this center would help with the transition of middle schoolers from a grades and psychological aspect. It would also help the new feeder pattern that would be established as well.

But with seventh and eighth graders being housed at McNeil and Barwise and then move to Hirschi and Rider, board members aren’t so sure that helps.

“I don’t get what we’re accomplishing. I would like to know more of how it’s gonna happen and what we would really accomplish academically that we hadn’t accomplished in a wing, separate wing for sixth grade,” WFISD Board member Katherine McGregor said.

“Consistency to me is huge and if a kid is going from one school to the next for five years in a row, where’s the consistency in that,” WFISD Board member Mark Lukert said.

As administrators continue this process, Board Members look to hold administrators accountable as they look to improve Kirby middle in particular. The school’s low test scores for four consecutive years had the T.E.A. ready to shut down the school or take over the district.

“Kirby is in the bottom five percent of the state. Is that an accurate statement? Yes. Kirby was in the bottom five percent two years ago. If we make some moves, if we’re still in the bottom five percent, we’re not gonna get out,” WFISD School Board member Bob Payton said.

“We have an opportunity to reinvent something that’s a district-wide issue of our fifth grade and sixth grade transition and so that was the point of saying, ‘hey let’s look at this. Oh and by the way. If you do what tea says, are you considering this for Kirby,’ you’re now resetting the accountability time clock for Kirby,” Kuhrt said.

Much concern for students and academics as WFISD tries not to make too much change happen all at once.

District officials say they are meeting with the tea every week about this plan. They hope to have the plan approved by January.

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