Maricopa Wells Middle School

Although school has ended for most, principals and staff are still on campus over the summer preparing for the 470 additional sixth grade students at Maricopa Unified School District middle schools.

The move comes after the voter-approved override allowed the district to hire more teachers. That includes teachers across all six of MUSD’s elementary schools, which have housed sixth-grade students for the past four years.

With increased need for additional space in elementary, MUSD approved the move in January.

Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel said 270 new students will take their seats in classrooms in the original sixth-grade wing of the school when classes start in August.

In 2013, the sixth graders were in the middle school but were shifted to elementary schools.

“They had talked about possibly closing a middle school, so they moved the sixth graders back. There was room in the elementary schools at that point in time,” Abel said.

Both MUSD middle schools remained opened, however, and as enrollment numbers grow, principals say they are ready to welcome sixth graders back to campus.

June Celaya, principal of Desert Wind Middle School, said she has also been working to ensure the transition from elementary to secondary is easier on staff and the 200 incoming sixth graders.

“I’ve rearranged the entire school and how teachers are in classrooms,” Celaya said.

Desert Wind Principal June Celaya stands on the stairs that will soon become familiar to sixth graders. Photo by Michelle Chance

Sixth and seventh grade students will be housed in the school’s second story; eighth graders will fill the classrooms downstairs.

Although the younger students will sometimes travel to the first floor to attend their elective classes, Celaya explained the separation will allow for the transition into the middle-school environment to be slow.

Sixth graders will attend five classes a day, mostly upstairs with their cohort of friends and teachers.

Celaya said that although parents might fear the change from elementary to middle, it gives the students an opportunity to grow.

“Throughout the rest of the year they find their way, and they find their voice, and they start to define who and what they want to be,” she said.

Sixth-grade teachers will also “adopt” their first period-classes and become mentors for those students, Celaya said.

Maricopa Wells sixth graders can expect four classroom options, Abel explained.

A breakdown of those options are:

  1. Blended Learning Classroom

“We will have about 50 of the kids in a blended learning setting and there will be one-to-one technology for those kids on campus,” Abel said. “It’s kind of a preparatory program to go in to what we used to call the 20+1 program at the middle school campuses.”

  1. Four-Teacher Cohort

“We will have a group of four teachers working with probably 100 to 115 kids and those four teachers will each teach one of the four core classes. That gives the kids a chance to move from teacher-to-teacher,” Abel said.

  1. Two-Teacher Cohort

“We also will have two teachers, each of them will teach two of the core subjects,” Abel explained, adding “About 50 to 55 kids there.”

  1. Traditional Classroom

“We had a number of parents who were interested in the traditional classroom which is one teacher teaching all of the core classes,” Abel said.

Classroom sizes are expected to range from 25 to 28 kids per class at Maricopa Wells, Abel said.

Both schools are adding nine teachers each – many of whom worked at district elementary schools.

“They are experienced teachers and they know how our system works, so that will make the transition a little easier, I hope,” Abel said.

Desert Wind Middle School. Photo by Michelle Chance

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