With the opening of middle schools at Winman and Veterans this year – the combination of 6th, 7th and 8th graders – elementary schools across the city will all be K-5.
“The fifth graders will now be top dogs,” said Hoxsie School Principal Gary McCoombs. He said they would become the “model” students for younger students “to look up to.” They will be the ones, he said, to set the example of good behavior, to be inclusive and “let everyone play with you” and to take on such jobs as crossing guards and helping set up school events.
McCoombs and Oakland Beach Principal Paul Heatherton, as well as other elementary school principals, spent Friday morning overseeing teacher workshops. McCoombs worked with physical education teachers, who now will take on the additional role of health instructors, a segment of the curriculum formerly covered by science teachers. Meanwhile, elementary classroom teachers will assume teaching the science curriculum to give students daily science instruction. Heatherton oversaw art and music teachers who clustered to talk about initiatives planned for the year.
Heatherton does not anticipate dramatic changes in the elementary school culture with the inclusion of 6th grade as part of middle school. With the consolidation of three elementary schools – Wickes, Randall Holden and John Brown Francis – and the elevation of 6th graders to Winman and Vets, he said Oakland Beach enrollment won’t change significantly. The major change he sees is for the 6th graders.
“They need to be at middle school to prepare for high school,” he said. “This is a great move for Warwick.”
Back at Hoxsie on Friday, McCoombs handed out badges and neon yellow safety straps – supplied for free by AAA – to the group of fifth graders waiting patiently in the gymnasium that had been recommended by their 4th grade teachers to become part of the school Safety Patrol.
The patrol is divided into different teams and some individuals with varying responsibilities; everything from helping raise the American flag at the beginning of the day to guiding kindergarteners to their classrooms and stopping their fellow students from becoming too unruly or harming one another in various classes.
Students can “rank up” to sergeants, lieutenants and captains if they are recommended from school staff or teachers for doing good work in classes and elsewhere in the school, for example if they prevent a verbal altercation on the bus from escalating or if they stop a younger student from causing disruptions in the hallways. The assignments are completely voluntary, and students can hand in their badge at any time if they feel the responsibility is too great.
“You’re all role models now,” McCoombs said to the group. “Kinds in K through 4 are looking up to you and people will copy your behavior.”
McCoombs offered a cheeky warning to the students as well.
“Occasionally this little bit of power can go right to your heads, but that’s not going to happen here.”