Originally Published: May 19, 2014 6 a.m.
The transition from elementary school to middle school can be a stressful experience for some students but, ultimately, one that provides huge benefits. In middle school, students attend different classes with different teachers based on content areas like science, math, social studies, and language arts, and they may have new elective classes like PE, art, technology, choir, and band. Over the course of the day, they could have the opportunity to get to know and mingle with over 170 students, not to mention the physical and social changes that occur in students during middle school. At Heritage Middle School (HMS) in the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), this transition happens sooner than most middle schools. Last year in a district restructure, CVUSD moved fifth grade to the middle school to join the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
To make this transition smooth, HMS hosted two days of on-campus transition events for the exiting fourth-graders at Del Rio Elementary School. First, the fourth-graders attended a PE orientation with enthusiastic Heritage PE teachers, Mr. Matt Montgomery and Ms. Lorie Blanco, where they learned all about Heritage's physical fitness programs. The next day, the fourth-graders came back to HMS donning their new, blue, "I am a Heritage Middle School Cougar!" logo T-shirts.
"It was amazing to see the long line of over 170 fourth graders proudly wearing their HMS shirts as they walked toward our school," said HMS Principal Mardi Read. The students rotated to all the fifth-grade classrooms and the fifth-grade computer lab, meeting their teachers for next year and ending with a treat in the cafeteria. On the way back to Del Rio, one fourth grader exclaimed, "This is the coolest school ever!"
The next week, HMS hosted a fourth-grade family orientation night for more than 300 people. It started with English and Spanish informational presentations to explain the schedule for next year, elective choices, extracurricular activities, school to family communication systems, and campus safety. Ms. Read explained that last year during the district restructure, the biggest concern of the parents was how to keep their younger students safe with the older students on campus.
"It really ended up being a non-issue," Read said. "The use of uniquely designed grade-level pods and clear rules about what areas students can be in, really kept the students physically apart."
An eighth-grade Student Council member commented, "Plus, older students really don't want to hang out with the younger students."
Ms. Reeder, HMS assistant principal, said, "We did not have one reported incident of a fifth-grade student being harassed by an older student on campus this year."
The evening ended with families enjoying a hot dog meal and touring the beautiful campus with Student Council members as guides.
On July 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the incoming fifth-graders are invited back to HMS to get their schedule, do team building activities with their teachers, practice going through the lunch line, and getting to know their teachers and schedules. Parents will be invited to learn how to log into the grade-monitoring system and more about how to support their middle school student.
Principal Read reported that parents and families seemed comfortable with all of the opportunities HMS can provide for their child's smooth transition to middle school.