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The Times
  • Building a middle school

  • Come September, Central Valley students in grades five through eight will step into the Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School where the curriculum and environment will be geared specifically to the needs of those students.

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  • For students entering middle school in the new Central Valley Central School District, it will be one among many firsts. Come September, students in grades five through eight will step into the Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School where the curriculum and environment will be geared specifically to the needs of those students.
    “I really feel that the needs of the students in grades five through eight are very unique,” Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said. “It was really the social components that we’re able to address.”
    Tangorra said fifth- and sixth-graders are a bit more advanced socially than those in lower grades — while the needs of seventh- and eighth-graders are very different from those in grades nine through 12.
    As of the 2011 - 2012 school year, there were 657 middle schools in New York compared to 293 junior-senior high schools, according to the state Education Department.
    Students in Ilion and Mohawk formerly were split into elementary schools (kindergarten through sixth grade) and junior-senior high schools (seventh through 12th grade).
    David Albert, director of communications and research at New York State School Boards Association, said students in that age group are going through a lot of changes.
    “You can provide more focus on that developmental time period” with a middle school configuration, he said. “Whereas, in a larger school, you have larger age groupings in a school, and so developmentally, younger children may be at a disadvantage at a junior-senior high school.”
    The decision to divide grades rests solely on each district, according to state officials.
    It was a move made several years ago in the Dolgeville Central School District after officials realized middle level students needed more attention.
    Dolgeville Superintendent Christine Reynolds said students in grades five through eight are going through puberty, experimenting with forming friendships and forming early career ideas.
    “I think it’s really critical to have curriculum and opportunities for exploration and opportunities for socialization to make sure our students are really successful once they enter high school,” she said. “The best way to do that is by having a middle school that has its own philosophy, its own program and its own opportunities for exploration.”
    Melissa Hoskey, the principal at Jarvis, said the curriculum and environment developed for the school will be tailored to students as well as their parents. “The primary goal that I have for this first year is to create a middle school culture,” she said.
    Hoskey comes from the Dolgeville school district where she was the middle school principal for six years.
    She said she plans to introduce larger blocks of scheduling for each subject — about 50 to 60 minutes in length — almost every day along with advisory time.
    “They will have access to (non-core) classes at a much earlier grade,” Hoskey said. “We are also hoping to have various extra-curricular activities, like drama, specific to grades five through eight.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Plus, she added, an exploratory curriculum will allow students to go on field trips to historic cities such as Boston or Philadelphia.
    “What I want to create in Jarvis Middle School is a school building, a home, for our middle school students so that they feel completely accepted, respected and that they can focus on learning both in the classroom and out,” she said. “That they can focus on being lifelong learners.”
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