The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City schools to transition from junior high to middle school model

Construction and curricular changes are underway to accommodate new sixth-grade students for the 2024-25 school year.
Grace Kreber
The Iowa City Community School District sign in Iowa City is seen on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.

The Iowa City Community School District is transitioning its junior high model to a middle school model by adding sixth graders to South East, Northwest, and North Central schools for the 2024-25 school year.

The decision to initiate this transition was made in the spring of 2022 after receiving approval from the school board. Since then, a committee of district representatives, administrators, and teachers looked at the best way to transition students from elementary schools to a new building, as well as what would most benefit students in middle school.

Construction has been underway on all three existing buildings to accommodate the new students and staff. Just over $56 million from the facilities master plan budget was allocated for the project of building new classrooms and common spaces for the 300-400 plus new students entering each building in the fall.

In addition to new classroom spaces, some of the benefits for students are new elective and exploratory classes that are more in line with the paths students will have in high school. These new classes include areas such as family consumer science, financial literacy, and more art classes such as fashion and design.

Lucas Ptacek, Iowa City Schools executive director of secondary schools, said the sixth-grader students can explore classes they never would’ve had in elementary school and find passions in more specialized areas.

Students were given a questionnaire during the plans for the transition about different areas of interest so they would be able to choose from course offerings they’re enthusiastic about.

“This is a great opportunity to not do what we’ve always done,” Ptacek said. “We took different types of courses that we want students to consider high engagement and high rigor, so we could revamp the types of courses that we’re going to offer students in the middle school. So that’s one thing that we’re extremely excited for.”

As for extracurricular activities, sixth graders will be able to join any existing clubs the school offers or start clubs of their own. Competitive school sports, however, will still only be available to seventh and eighth graders, although administrators said they are looking for ways for sixth-grade students to be involved in sports through intramural opportunities.

“We know that if kids are involved in after-school activities, they become more engaged and more involved during the school day,” Ptacek said. “We’re very mindful of the fact that we’re going to have to create those opportunities.”

Keeping students involved is a large part of the decision to change over to the middle school model. South East Principal Michelle Cook said adding sixth graders to the building will foster better school culture and connections to the building and other students.

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“I think that a struggle that we’ve always had with junior high has been to make it be more than just a blip on their [students’] radar,” Cook said. “We’ve always had to work really hard at getting them to identify with the school and feel like they’re a part of this community.”

Overall, North Central principal Colby Miller said the middle schools offer students an array of new possibilities and chances to grow as young adults and are an opportunity to make a bigger impact.

“I can speak for myself, but I can also speak for our teachers, we got in this business to help our community and work with kids,” Miller said. “Anytime we’re bringing more kids in, and we can have a greater impact, that just feels good for us.”

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About the Contributor
Grace Olson, News Reporter
Grace Olson is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. She's a news reporter for The DI, reporting primarily on local government. She is from Denver, Colorado and worked on the pirnt publication from her high school prior to her work in college.