Palmyra Board of Education approves plan to move sixth graders to high school

Sixth grade will join seventh and eighth grade on the second floor of the building for 2019–20 school year

The Palmyra Board of Education voted at its April 11 meeting 8–1 in favor of a plan to move sixth-grade students to the borough’s high school starting in the 2019–20 school year.

Superintendent Brian McBride recommended the board approve the move as a way to bring together sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“It’s taken us a long time to get to this point,” McBride said. “I think we’ve reached a point where it’s necessary to get to tonight, to make this recommendation.”

Currently, sixth graders are taught at the Charles Street School, which also serves students in preschool through fifth grade. Seventh and eighth graders attend classes at Palmyra High School.

The plan approved at the board’s April 11 meeting will establish a middle school for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students on the second floor of Palmyra High School.

“My final recommendation is to move the sixth grade to Palmyra High School,” McBride said prior to the vote. “I think that’s to be done to support their educational, emotional and social needs (and) to stay balanced in your school budget.”

Tonya Washington was the only board member to vote against the proposal.

The plan would also likely require rehabilitation of the high school’s second floor, McBride said. He said the estimated cost of the project would be $195,000 and would not necessitate an increase in school taxes.

Before the board’s decision, McBride presented three proposals to establish a middle school, including the option that was finally approved.

The first proposal was to move the seventh- and eighth-grade students to the Charles Street School. It would have required the construction of an addition to the building at a cost of at least $3.5 million, McBride said.

“The current setup at Charles Street School does not allow very easily to bring seventh and eighth grade over,” he added.

The second option included in the presentation was to move the sixth, seventh and eighth graders to the Delaware Avenue School, which is currently home to special classes for at-risk high school students.

McBride said that proposal would also require the construction of additional classrooms and a renovation of the current building. The expansion alone would cost an estimated $2.65 million.

Both of those options would have led to a tax levy, McBride said.

“At the end of the day, I have a fiduciary responsibility to the Board of Education to make sure that I’m spending your money, and spending it in accords with the law, in the best interests of students,” McBride told the board.

The third option was the plan approved by the board and recommended by McBride.

McBride said he believes moving the sixth graders to a building with older students could prove beneficial for them.

“Upper-aged kids can support younger-aged kids,” he said. “So could our high school kids support our middle school kids? Absolutely.”

The vote was held after McBride’s presentation and a lengthy discussion between him and the board.

Board member John Quigg said the issue of grade reconfiguration has been debated since he joined the board in 2010.

“I know that I’ve seen this go back and forth at least three or four times,” he said. “Something needs to be done.”