Maxwelton Road will be a busy place in the morning on school days next fall.
South Whidbey High School will receive the most traffic, as three different school entities and around 650 students will be housed within its corridors.
The South Whidbey School District announced Wednesday that grades seven and eight from Langley Middle School will relocate to South Whidbey High School following the school board’s vote to close the school on Jan. 25. Both grades are expected to have approximately 100 students and will be separate from the 9-12 students in both “spaces occupied and schedules,” according to a district newsletter.
Grades five and six will move to South Whidbey Primary School, now referred to as South Whidbey Elementary South Campus, while K-4 will operate out of South Whidbey Elementary School, now known as South Whidbey Elementary North Campus.
South Whidbey Academy grades 7-8 will also join the 9-12 program already housed in the north wing of the high school.
“I’m excited,” Superintendent Jo Moccia said. “I think we can really do awesome things reorganizing this way.”
Moccia said she met with teachers last week to discuss how students would be divvied up among the school district. While teachers made it clear to Moccia that they would have liked to have kept the middle school’s grades 6-8 as a singular entity, Moccia said that it simply wasn’t feasible. South Whidbey High School has capacity for roughly 900 students, but segregation between the middle school and high school students would have been compromised with the addition of sixth graders.
“The most important thing was that we couldn’t segregate them appropriately from the rest of the population,” Moccia said. “…It wouldn’t work out classroom-wise. We wanted to make sure that teachers weren’t having to share classrooms and be on carts and travel.”
Messages left for three middle school teachers this pass week requesting comment were not returned by press time Friday afternoon.
Talks about consolidation in the South Whidbey School District began in May 2016 at a community meeting and continued during several other meetings in the fall and winter of last year. With declining enrollment and fewer monies allocated from the state, the district recommended the school board close the middle school, which is the most expensive building to operate at $321,996 per year.
How the middle school will be used following the closure of its doors to students remains unclear.
Middle school physical education spaces such as the “The Cooler” and multi-purpose room could go unused by students following the school’s closure, as Moccia said the high school’s physical education spaces accommodate the student’s physical education needs and that it’s unlikely students will be transported between the schools during the day. Moccia did say, however, that the district will try to make sure the gyms and fields are available should they be needed.
Moccia also envisioned the middle school’s fields being utilized in a similar way as South Whidbey Elementary School’s fields, which are used as a practice field for South Whidbey High School’s boys soccer team. South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District fields could also be utilized by more sports teams, Moccia said; the Falcons’ girls soccer and football practices on the parks and recreation sports complex fields.
Paul Lagerstedt, South Whidbey High School’s athletic director, said he is currently working out a schedule for both middle school and high school sports.
“I’m just looking at the calendars and looking at the various sports and looking at our facilities and how to best use them for our kids,” Lagerstedt said.
Organizations and agencies have also reached out to the district and inquired about how the middle school will be used.
“We’ll be talking to different agencies who have expressed an interested in trying to figure out what we have planned for that,” Moccia said.
Those agencies include the Port of South Whidbey, South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, as well as leaders from Island Shakespeare Festival, Moccia said.
“The board is certainly the decision maker,” Moccia said. “I’m gathering information. Our hope is that it will be used for the community. Exactly what that looks like is still in process.”
The Island County Historical Society has set up shop in the district’s old administration building adjacent to the middle school and is in the process of archiving the school’s historical materials, such as class photos. The organization also plans to open a research center that will make the archived records available to the public.