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Easing the Transition

When acclaimed young adult author Jacqueline Woodson visited Bexley this winter, students in grades 6 – 8 joined together for their own designated time with her. Teachers and administrators agree that the advantages of such a gathering outweighed the logistical challenges posed by transporting all the sixth graders to the Cassingham Complex.

At this age, students start to look more at society as a whole and their roles in that society. “They are beginning to use written text to not only understand themselves, but learn from the perspectives of others especially those from a different cultural, racial, or gender background,” said Rachel Riegler, BMS and Cassingham library specialist who helped develop some of the teaching and learning activities around Ms. Woodson’s visit.

All sixth and seventh graders had read Ms. Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, 2014 winner of the National Book Award for Young People. Chapter books by Ms. Woodson prompted students’ questions for the sessions, like: “How do you feel about the recent events happening in America that have to do with racial equality? What do you think we, as a generation, can do to stop racial injustice from happening?”

This is just one example of the schools building community and bringing students together in preparation for fall 2017 when sixth graders begin attending Bexley Middle School. Recently, sixth graders joined in a BMS jazz ensemble performance during the middle school’s Harvest Festival. Grades 5 - 8 vcome together over winter reak for a skating party sponsored by the BMS PTO.  Fifth and sixth graders tour the middle school and attend orientations later this year.

An advisory committee made up of teachers and residents who represent all five schools has been working behind the scenes to ensure the smoothest transition possible. The group, led by BMS principal Jason Caudill, meets once every month to address issues like safety and open lunch that came up in the community as the BMS reconfiguration was discussed.

The group is considering traditions, orientation activities, curriculum, and gifted programming, among others. The members next meet on January 17 to discuss the results of a fall survey about lunch practices. Mr. Caudill expects that BMS will share those results at the February board meeting, as part of school’s annual report.

“The members of the committee have shown a high level of commitment to getting this transition right. They have provided invaluable feedback that has helped us think deeply about everything we do,” he said.