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GEMS to offer multi-age classroom changes for K-1 grades

— Parents will have more choices when it comes to their kids’ education at Grangeville Elementary Middle School (GEMS) this fall.

Rather than keep multi-age only classes in kindergarten-first grade at GEMS, single and combined classes will be offered for the combined class as well as kindergarten and first-grade only classes.

“Some kids come in more prepared than others, and no child is the same,” said Mountain View School District 244 Superintendent Kent Stokes.

Dr. Susan Anderson, GEMS principal, agreed and said parents and teachers had talked to her about possible changes, which she in turn advocated to the board. The board agreed at its last regular meeting to allow GEMS to try a different K-1 classroom approach.

“Children come in with various academic and social strengths and this will allow those children to be placed appropriately,” she said.

Parents will be able to request in what scenario they would like their children to learn; however, teachers will be in on that plan, as well.

“There may be some things teachers see that parents are not aware of, and they may have recommendations based on these observations or knowledge,” Anderson added.

She said Grangeville is also working on its kindergarten screening process so the school can be better aware of what needs exist or where a student might currently be in a variety of areas.

“We want the screening to mean something and be useful, so there are changes we are making,” she said. “It will probably mean asking more questions and will be a little more time consuming, but it will certainly help us know at what level kids are at when they first enter the school system.”

GEMS will still have the same number of full-time K-1 teachers at seven.

At Clearwater Valley Elementary School, Stokes said, the multi-age classes will remain the same.

“It’s working for them,” he said.

Anderson added the plan at GEMS may not be permanent, “But it’s something we are willing to try,” she said.

“I believe within three years, we would have solid evidence to make a determination if straight kindergarten, straight first or a combination of K-1 best meets the needs of our students,” she said.

Multi-age classrooms have existed in the entire district for the past five years.


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