Parents Concerned Over Possible Closing of Middle School

Parents in Jefferson County say a proposal to close Howard Middle School next year is a bad decision. The Jefferson County School Board wants to take the 6th, 7th and 8th graders from Howard Middle and transfer them to Jefferson County High School, and some say it's a disaster waiting to happen.

By next fall, students attending Howard Middle School could be roaming the halls with high schoolers attending Jefferson County High.

Cynthia Shrestha of the Jefferson County School Board says, "Back in January 2004, the School Board approved in their five-year facilities plan that the 6th, 7th and 8th grade would eventually be moved to the new HS site."

Monday, Jefferson County parents and staff with Howard Middle School voiced their concerns to the School Board. They feel, among other problems, the merger could lead to possible sexual harassment of the younger students by the older ones.

Sandra Saunders, a Jefferson County parent, says, "I do see the things that go on with the HS students as far as discipline and the way they carry themselves, typical teenagers. Having a younger student from the middle school to enhance that type of environment is going to be a negative one on the students, school and the whole community."

Monday's meeting was one of many opportunities through next spring for the community to give their input on the decision.

Staff with Howard Middle says their school is under new leadership and is just beginning to rebound from the "D" grade it received this year.

William Saffo, a teacher at Howard Middle School, says, "We need to be concerned about FCAT scores and those things; this is not the right time to have this done."

School Board officials say there is $23 million to be received from the state if they can raise the student enrollment of Jefferson County High School to a certain number. A final vote on the closing won't be made until April 11.