U-32 Middle and High School Controversy

This article is written by Journalism student, Elise O’Brien.


The combination of middle and high school (7-12) at U-32 has always been a controversial topic.  Even within U-32, there are varying opinions and ideas relating to the grades in attendance.


Jade Walker, a middle school counselor, has very strong opinions on this.  “I am 100% an advocate to keep the school together, even build on the connections that we already have between high schoolers and middle schoolers,” said Jade.


Jade Walker in her office in the middle school.


She thinks the combination of middle and high schoolers at U-32 is one of its strengths.  Along with the programs we already have, she seeks to add more and expand the relationships between middle and high school students.


She wants to see more student helpers in the middle school.  “I would like to see more tutoring or high schoolers supporting in the classrooms.  And the kids doing more things like YES (year-end studies), where they’re learning together in an environment,” said Jade.


Her idea is to give students credit for helping to teach middle school classes.  Even if it’s only once a week, or even twice a month.  “Who doesn’t want to learn from a cool Junior, rather than a middle school teacher, and then you would have relationships and connections,” said Jade


Another benefit of these connections is motivation and perspective.  If a teacher has a student who is struggling in their class, they can have a student who was once in the same situation and is now doing great come talk to them.  The high school student can help them through the class and be someone for them to look at and know it won’t always be this difficult.


During the Covid-19 time, all grades were completely separated.  They didn’t have any interaction, which she thinks deprived them of “positive peer pressure”  that helps younger kids grow.


 “I think kids listen to other kids a thousand times more than they’re ever going to listen to a grown-up, no matter how much I think I have a good idea,” said Jade.


While she was working with an 8th-grader on a 9th-grade schedule, he ran into a tough decision about math classes.  He is extremely advanced in math, and Jade wanted him to talk to a student who had been through the same thing.


She asked a senior who is currently in Calculus 5 to come talk to him about his experiences.  This helped the student a lot.  “They got to have this awesome conversation that is a hundred percent better than anything I was going to be able to do to help this kid make decisions for high school,” said Jade.


She wants to see more of this happening.  “Those are missed opportunities I think we can take advantage of here,” said Jade.


She also comments on the opposing opinions of some high school teachers.  “I think there’s a sentiment in the high school that teachers don’t want to deal with middle school kids because they’re so wildly immature, but how else are they supposed to grow?” said Jade.


Bruno De Leon is a current 6th-grade student at East Montpelier Elementary School.  He will attend 7th grade at U-32 next year.  He has a neutral outlook on going to school with a combined middle and high school.


“It will be kind of cool, but kind of weird at the same time,” said Bruno.  He is nervous that the bigger school will make it harder to find classes.


Two students in 9th grade, Lyric Luce and Kalypso Anderson-Melekos, have similar opinions on this topic.  While neither of them is partial to combined or separate schools, they have issues with the current equity around it at U-32.


Lyric thinks back to the pep rallies she attended in middle school.  While all the middle schoolers were allowed to go, the high schoolers were the ones who got to participate in most activities.  “So what’s the point of being here if I can’t do everything that everyone else can?” said Lyric.


Lyric Luce in the atrium during her free band.


She also feels like the high school is prioritized over the middle school, which she acknowledges makes some sense, but doesn’t feel great as a middle schooler.  “I feel like it’s not really fair for the middle schoolers, because some things can be under-prioritized,” said Lyric.


Kalypso agrees with Lyric.  Another example is fundraisers and booths.  She remembers how as a middle schooler she wasn’t allowed to buy things from those sales.  “I specifically remember when people would be outside the senior lounge and you would try to buy something and the teachers would be like, no, you can’t buy anything, you’re in middle school,” said Kalypso.


Kalypso Anderson-Melekos in TA.


She thinks this isn’t fair to middle schoolers who are left out.  Kalypso said, “If you’re going to have that in a place like the atrium, where middle and high schoolers mix a lot, then why can’t middle schoolers participate?”


Though this controversy is still discussed, U-32 will remain a middle and high school for the foreseeable future.

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