Program eases transition to middle school

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Thu., Jan. 23, 2014
Betsy Lepak looks on as Sage Park students speak with fifth-graders about what they can expect in middle school. Photos by Jennifer Coe.
Betsy Lepak looks on as Sage Park students speak with fifth-graders about what they can expect in middle school. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

Clover Elementary fifth-graders assembled in their school cafeteria on Jan. 14 to press middle-school students for clear answers on pertinent pre-adolescent issues. As they are preparing to finish their last year of elementary school and move over to Sage Park Middle School, many fifth-graders have begun to wonder what sixth grade is like. The questions started to flow one after another: Is Sage Park a big school? Will I be able to find my way around? How different is it exactly? How do I get my locker open? What if I get lost?

A panel of seven middle-school students sat before two rows of fifth-graders to answer questions and share their own personal stories.
“It was big,” shared Victoria, a sixth-grader. “And it was a lot more people than I was used to.”

“I recommend putting your schedule in front of your binder,” said seventh-grader Tashae.

This transition program was begun a couple of years ago to help fifth-graders feel more confident throughout this process of change, which can be pretty intimidating.

While kids were busy discussing their issues, parents were on the other side of the cafeteria speaking with Sage Park Middle School Principal Paul Cavaliere, Vice Principal William Fisher and guidance counselor Celeste Ryan. The parents were more concerned with what Sage Park has to offer their children in the way of programming and special opportunities.  What is the discipline policy? How will the guidance counselor assist my child? What is the class size?

“We get to know your children on a one-on-one, emotional basis,” said Ryan.  “We develop a student success plan for each one.” This calmed the fears of many parents who were concerned that their children would be lost in a crowd.  “We help them with academic, personal, and social-emotional goals,” Ryan added.

Cavaliere described the academic side of middle school. “We really need to push the academics more and more all the time,” he said. “Windsor is behind, in my opinion, as far as instructional minutes.” Windsor, in fact, will be extending the school day by five minutes a year for the next few years. “I try to make sure that there is no reason why kids can’t be successful,” he said.

“This program gives the parents an opportunity to meet with the administration and maybe a guidance counselor,” said Betsy Lepak, the transition program’s organizer. “The kids hear about the VIP program, sports, etc.” Lepak has been running this program since its inception a few years ago.  This is the first year in which students have met separately from their parents.

The conversations went on for about an hour and a half, with both students and parents making the most of the time.

Middle-school student Olivia encouraged the Clover kids; “When you get there, it’s going to be simple.”

“The best thing to do is don’t worry,” Fisher advised the parents. “Kids are settled after a week. Parents are settled after a month and a half.”

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