The Cottonwood High School Network is currently in the process of considering reconfiguration of 9th grade from our junior high schools to Cottonwood High. This post is being provided at the request of your respective school community councils in advance of a formal independent survey that will be conducted on the topic.
Please review the information carefully. It has been prepared directly by school administrators and community council members. It is intended to provide a vision and understanding of the impact of reconfiguration on your schools.
While the District has not “forced” networks to adopt 9th grade reconfiguration, the District supports communities who desire to implement this model. We continue to work with individual networks to provide information to address concerns to ensure that communities are empowered with good information to make the best decision for their schools and children.
If you have questions that are not addressed in this post, email your question to email@example.com and we will respond to you directly. We also encourage you to take questions to your school administrators and community council parents.
Our goal is to provide students in Granite District, an individualized educational experience that meets their academic needs and interests. Thanks for your support.
Sincerely, Dr. Rich K. Nye
Superintendent, Granite School District
Several years ago, the Granite Board of Education and Administration opened the door for secondary school community councils to consider and request the opportunity to reconfigure secondary schools to a traditional 7-8 and 9-12 model. This configuration is utilized in roughly 80% of secondary schools nationwide and locally in Canyons and Salt Lake School Districts as well as other rural districts.
Three other high school networks within Granite (Granger, Kearns, Hunter) have or will transition to this model and two others are currently considering reconfiguration similar to our community. It is important to understand that historically, our current grade configuration is based on significant student growth from 1970 – 1990 and the ability to house students, as opposed to a configuration that makes academic/educational sense. This is why high schools in our district and other school districts, such as Canyons and Salt Lake School District, have reverted to the 9-12 configuration.
The basis for considering reconfiguration is based on a sound academic data that indicates tremendous benefits to students as they prepare for college and career including:
- Fewer Transitions: All four high school years will occur in consecutive years in one setting. Currently, 8th grade students transition to high school at the junior high, then physically transition again when they move to the high school for 10th grade.
- Comprehensive Counseling: Students in the 9-12 configuration receive all-inclusive guidance from a counselor who provides support from the beginning to the end of their high school career resulting in higher graduation rates and less dropouts.
- Program consistency and rigor: This configuration would allow all 9th grade students access to the Granite Technical Institute (GTI), AP courses, and other higher level academic and elective courses. Currently, only students whose parents can provide transportation can access these programs. Additionally, other programmatic, activity and athletic opportunities would improve for 9th grade students including access to higher-level coursework and arts programs and Freshman sports teams.
- Consistent mature student behavior and academic expectations.
7-8 students would also benefit from enrollment in a true “middle school,” model and philosophy. Without the concern of having to offer high school level requirements, the master schedule lends itself better for teacher teaming and cross-curricular instruction. Additionally, junior high’s can focus more on developmentally appropriate and responsive instruction and services.
Cottonwood High is dedicated to creating a safe, positive, and accessible learning environment in which students can develop the essential skills needed to become successful. In order to more effectively create this environment, Cottonwood believes it is beneficial to integrate 9th graders academically and physically into the high school. 9th grade often coincides with adolescent changes including decreased parental supervision, an increase in peer influence, and an added emphasis or focus on graduation and post high school pursuits. These changes and an increased rigor in academic studies often complicate the transition when 9th grade is in the junior high as opposed to the high school.
For these reasons, Cottonwood High School recommends and supports 9th grade reconfiguration. With an increased focus on creating college and career ready graduates, Cottonwood High School believes that reconfiguration provides the greatest opportunities for all students.
Cottonwood High Logistics and Vision
A 9-12 configuration of at Cottonwood using current enrollment figures would place our population at slightly over 2,000 students.This takes into account the recent loss of the Bennion Junior High feeder boundary to Cottonwood from the Taylorsville area.
The District Architectural, Engineering, and Construction Departments have reviewed our building configuration. It was determined that with classroom scheduling, creating labs, and new classrooms, Cottonwood CAN house the 9th grade without any additional relocatable classrooms and WITHOUT impacting AMES Charter School. This will require some minor capital improvements, some part-time traveling teachers, and more efficient classroom usage.
- We envision a portion of our building dedicated to 9th grade Language Arts, Social Science, and Math classes all in the same geographical area, currently 9 rooms in the Math Area.
- All 9th graders could be fully integrated into the current structure with enough classrooms available in all subject areas based on preference.
- 9th grade offerings would include: Biology, Honors Biology, Earth Systems, Secondary 1, Honors secondary 1, English 9 Fundamentals, English 9 Core, English 9 Honors, Geography, and A Geography. Elective offerings would increase and would include subjects in CTE Business, CTE Industrial, Fine Arts, Performing Art, Science, P.E., World Languages, FACS, History, and Humanities.
Allowing Junior High Schools to focus on “middle level philosophy” for 7th and 8th graders will provide a distinct advantage. By not having to offer high school requirements, the master schedule lends itself better for true teaming and cross-curricular instruction. Both schools will be able to focus on developmentally appropriate and responsive instruction and services.
Both junior high schools are currently considering a switch to a “5×5” block schedule, meaning students would attend 5 periods every other day for a total of 10 periods. Core SAGE tested subjects of Language Arts, Math, and Science would be double blocked, meaning students would attend those courses every day. That leaves 6 periods for Social Studies and electives. The shift would allow for more instruction time in the SAGE subjects, while not affecting or even increasing the number of periods left for electives. While nearly doubling the instruction time for Math, English, and Science, it would reduce the instruction time for electives by approximately 15%.
Currently, most instructional curriculum, materials and methodologies are specific to middle level grades 7-8 and shift focus at 9-12 (i.e. Digits Math 7-8 vs. Sec. Math 1-3). Reconfiguration would allow teachers, counselors and administration to concentrate efforts more singularly focused on middle level student needs, methodologies, school climate and services. Mixed grade level classes (i.e. World language, Art, PE with 9th etc.) would become single grade or combined 7-8 classes based on community input and demand.
Bonneville Junior Logistics and Vision
Bonneville Junior will likely maintain a similar 7-8 enrollment through 2016 with perhaps a small (20-30 student) increase of students through the Chinese Immersion Program by 2016-17.
Currently all teachers at Bonneville are full time except one .5 Resource, .5 Utah Studies and a shared Chinese teacher with Bennion Junior. Shared teacher contracts can be difficult since Bonneville is one of only three schools with 7 periods. A change to a 5×5 block would closely match 12 junior highs and all high schools and allow for improved teacher sharing for electives and arts programs. See the below chart for a complete projected enrollment.
With reconfiguration, the performing arts will be impacted and efforts redirected towards teaching more beginning level courses. Drama and Choral would shift to a 7-8 level performance model providing additional opportunities for 7th grade participation and 8th grade student leadership roles. This means that the school’s annual theatrical and other art and music productions would be staffed by 7-8 students as opposed to mainly 9th grade students as they are currently. Programs would potentially be staffed by a full time or shared teacher based on community input and program demand.
Current 7-8 schools have increased their intramural sports programs for all students, but currently do not have interschool sports. The possibility exists to have a hybrid intramural program with playoffs or some 7-8 interschool teams as more schools continue to switch to a 7-8 configuration. Intramurals offer more opportunities for a greater number of students but does lack the more intense team coaching found in current programs. However, as more schools in the valley convert to a 7-8 model, it is anticipated that competitive leagues will provide our 7-8 populations enhanced opportunities for interschool and district competition.
Granite Park Junior Logistics and Vision
Granite Park has already lost around 20% of its 9th graders, as their home school is Granger High, which has already configured to the 9-12 model.
Granite Park is already operating an intermural sports model and does not currently compete against other schools. This program better meets the needs of our student population and allows for greater participation opportunities for all students. For example, instead of having a basketball team of only 15 kids, we have over 100 kids that participate. The disadvantage is the lack of intense coaching and competitive opportunities with other schools. However, this will change as more schools switch to a 7-8 model and interschool competition increases.
With the loss of 9th grade, we anticipate that we would likely retain one music teacher, and offer a combination of both instrumental and choral offerings. Comparable to Bonneville, we anticipate the loss of advanced musical opportunities, as those programs would transition to the high school with the 9th grade. In turn, we would offer more beginning courses.
Granite Park currently has 9 portable classrooms located on the blacktop east of the main building. Reconfiguration would allow for Granite Park to have all but two of the classrooms housed in the main building. It would also free up blacktop space for activities during lunchtime and P.E. classes.
From Granite Park’s perspective, the ability to focus on middle level philosophy under a 7-8 model will benefit kids. This outweighs the challenges and concerns of losing 9th grade population. This is particularly true since Granite Park has already lost a significant portion of 9th graders to Granger High as our current boundaries include West Valley City students.
Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns
In the process of reconfiguration, one of the challenges is reassigning teachers. For example, it may be difficult to exactly match the teachers leaving Granite Park and Bonneville to Cottonwood. While core classes typically are easier to transition, electives don’t always line up as well. This often requires expanding placement to other schools within the district. However, in the past 3 reconfiguration processes in other networks, not a single teacher or staff member have lost their position and have always been offered multiple opportunities for placement.
Many parents of 9th grade students feel insecure about their child’s success in an environment where older students are present. The reality is that the bulk of these concerns can and should be addressed by families and not by the school. However, as a result of reconfiguration in other communities, we have found the following:
- Incidents of bullying have actually subsided at both the junior high and high school level. Additionally, 9th grade students appear to “mature” in the high school environment and data clearly indicates a reduction in tardies and absenteeism for 9th grade students in the high school as opposed to the junior high.
- There is no data to suggest that teenage pregnancy rates increase with the presence of 9th grade in the high school. While there are situations where older students fraternize romantically with younger students, this already occurs in our current configuration and correlates more directly with specific students and families and their individual standards rather than a particular school configuration model.
- Parents concerned with younger students being introduced to dating should realize that schools do not establish or maintain those standards or rules. While schools do provide community desired activities (including dances), families are the appropriate place for the enforcement of rules regarding participation in such activities.
Could 6th grade be brought to the Junior High School to offset the decrease in enrollment at the junior high level? While there is not any data to suggest an academic advantage to a 6-8 model, the District is open to this suggestion as a way to increase FTE and programmatic opportunities at the junior high level.
Cottonwood Network Projected Resident Enrollment
The following charts outline the anticipated enrollment if reconfiguration were to be approved for the 2016-2017 school year. These projections are based on current resident students that live within these school boundaries. Many other factors impact actual enrollment such as permits in and out of district schools, as well as permits from outside the district boundaries.
|Bonneville Jr. Projections|
|2015-2016 School Year||7th||8th||9th||Total|
|Bonneville Jr. High w/o 9th Grade||288||271||559|
|Bonneville Jr. High with 9th Grade||288||271||293||852|
|2016-2017 School Year|
|Bonneville Jr. High w/o 9th Grade||342||288||630|
|Bonneville Jr. High with 9th Grade||342||288||271||901|
|Granite Park Jr. High Projections|
|2015-2016 School Year||7th||8th||9th||Total|
|Granite Park Jr. High w/o 9th Grade||423||370||793|
|Granite Park Jr. High with 9th Grade||423||370||327||1120|
|2016-2017 School Year|
|Granite Park Jr. High w/o 9th Grade||437||423||860|
|Granite Park Jr. High with 9th Grade||437||423||370||1230|
|Cottonwood High Resident Projections|
|2015-2016 School Year||9th||10th||11th||12th||Total|
|Cottonwood High w/o 9th Grade||531||479||535||1545|
|Cottonwood High with 9th Grade||534||531||479||535||2079|
|2016-2017 School Year|
|Cottonwood High w/o 9th Grade||534||534||479||1544|
|Cottonwood High with 9th Grade||541||534||531||479||2085|
Process of Reconfiguration
Reconfiguration is a community decision. As school community council’s, we are currently studying the impacts of reconfiguration and educating our community on these issues.
As community meetings have already been held, the next step will be a formal survey completed by a contractor with an appropriate survey sample size of our patrons to determine the level of support for reconfiguration.
If a formal independent survey indicates community support, the individual school community councils will then proceed to vote on reconfiguration. If that were successful, the council’s would then officially petition the Board of Education for reconfiguration.
Again, we appreciate your review of this important information and look forward to reviewing data from the independent survey to be completed in March.
School Community Councils and Principals at Cottonwood High, Bonneville Junior and Granite Park Junior