GI Northwest Revisits Need for a Middle School


Five years after voters rejected a plan that would have built a central middle school for the Grand Island Northwest district, the school board is again open to that possibility.

The school board held a retreat this week, and talked about the need to improve curriculum for the middle school grades.

Currently sixth through eighth graders are in four feeder schools, that go down to kindergarten. That includes two rural schools outside Grand Island, and schools in both Chapman and St. Libory.

Everybody knows everybody in a school of 170.

Just a few minutes from Grand Island, but surrounded by farms, One-R School provides the kind of atmosphere many parents seek for their kids.

As they've asked in the past, administrators question if they can make it even better.

Superintendent Matt Fisher said, "What is the best arrangement for us?"

With grades six, seven, and eight are in the same building as kindergarten and educators worry they can't offer older kids what some schools can.

Fisher said, "Our students are missing out on opportunities most middle school students have, simply because it's not feasible for us to have those specialists in all four of those schools.

The answer could be a central middle school next to the high school. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a similar proposal five years ago, with many parents worried it would be a departure from the environment they're used to.

So as they revisit the issue, they're mindful parents must be included.

Fisher said, "We could still be in a setting that would be a very small feeling and still provide the opportunities we're missing out on."

Cost could be the other hang up. But they already benefit from families inside Grand Island city limits and believe parents would transfer their kids at an earlier age.

"The option dollars would follow those students and actually a good part of the building probably could be paid for by the expanded enrollment of those option students," Fisher said.

Even 40 kids a year in each middle school grade level could equate to a million dollars coming in. A bond issue could be a year or two away, as they begin the dialogue.

Fisher said, "I think we'll have some interesting conversations." They have four feeder schools and say they'd all stay open.

Several parents told NTV it's time to offer more for middle school kids. But others still worry it'll take away the small classes they're used to.

The school board held a planning retreat on Wednesday. They also discussed whether or not to continue their practice of providing an iPad for all high school students.

In addition, they discussed safety issues in their school buildings.