Evan Thompson / The Record — Over 700 students and parents gathered at South Whidbey High School’s auditorium for an informational meeting for grades 5-8 on Thursday night. The grades as a collective are now known as South Whidbey Middle School.

School meeting draws 700 students, parents

Students affected by the closure of Langley Middle School had a taste of what the upcoming school year will be like on Thursday night.

Over 700 students and parents gathered at the high school’s auditorium for an informational meeting for grades 5-8 to map and plan out the school year, which begins on Sept. 5.

The middle school’s closure, meant to save money in operational costs and avoid cutting teachers, displaced grades 6-8. Under a plan discussed by South Whidbey School District leaders and the community in the months leading up to the middle school’s closure, grades 7 and 8 will move to the high school, while grades 5 and 6 will go to South Whidbey Elementary School South Campus, formerly known as the primary school.

Combined, grades 5-8 make up the school now known as South Whidbey Middle School.

“You are the Cougars,” James Swanson, the middle school’s new principal, told the crowd in the auditorium in reference to Langley Middle School’s mascot.

Swanson kicked off the meeting by addressing general concerns about the school year. He covered everything from scheduling to day-to-day interactions between middle and high school students. Swanson said all students will have math, science, history, physical education and electives. He assured the crowd that fifth and sixth graders will have physical education everyday and added that there will be additional elective offerings for grades 7 and 8.

Swanson also briefly discussed a new “intervention” program, where teachers meet in groups to discuss where students are struggling. Students will then spend the final period of their days working with specific teachers one-on-one to improve the deficit areas.

“It’s got a ton of possibilities and it’s going to be pretty powerful,” Swanson said.

Swanson said passing times between grades 7-8 and 9-12 will be different, and that the only interactions between the two age groups will occur while students are waiting for buses home. He said teachers will not only monitor passing times, but will also be out at the bus area.

Finally, Swanson said administrators will be at both campuses at all times, and that he will only be one-half mile from each school during the day.

“It’s going to be a really good year,” Swanson said. “Will it be perfect? Probably not. Will there be a few bumps along the way? Most likely. But, I guarantee we’ll get through it on a very positive note.”

Students and parents then had a chance to roam the halls of the kids’ respective campuses to explore the classroom spaces and get a feel for their daily schedules. It also gave parents an idea of what their kids will be doing throughout the day.

“I just wanted to be able to see it and know what he was doing,” Freeland resident and eighth-grade parent Sandy Westphal said.

Seventh grader Simone White said the meeting helped clear up questions that she had coming into the school year.

“It was good that we heard everything because we were really confused before,” White said. “We didn’t really know about the transition and stuff.”

Eighth-grade parent Darcy Thomson, however, left the meeting with questions unanswered, particularly concerning storage space. Her daughter, Ellie, will have several things to bring with her to school on a daily basis, including a musical instrument for band, her belongings for sports and her backpack.

“We’re trying to figure out where these kids are going to put everything and it sounds like they don’t really have anything,” Thomson said.

Sarah Val, the parent of seventh-grader Sidnee Val, considered the high school to be upgrade in terms of the quality of the facility.

“The buildings are newer, they have a lot more space,” Val said. “I’m happy about it.”

Timothy Ursu, a seventh-grader, was pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of the school.

“It’s cool that there’s more room now and that everything isn’t so crammed together,” Ursu said.

Evidence of the transition process was evident during the roaming period, as desks and chairs were lined up along the hallway by the high school’s breezeway.

“In another week it will be shockingly put together,” Superintendent Jo Moccia said.

 

Evan Thompson / The Record — South Whidbey Middle School Principal James Swanson provided general information for those who attended an informational meeting for grades 5-8 on Thursday night at South Whidbey High School.