Caught in the middle

Published 9:44 am Friday, July 31, 2009

Austin Catholic Schools is evolving to accommodate changes in education with a big addition to its junior high program.

Previously, Pacelli Junior High included seventh and eighth grades, which are located on the second floor. Now, sixth-graders will attend Pacelli instead of Austin Catholic Elementary School. ACS is also changing the name from Pacelli Junior High to Pacelli Middle School.

Director Mary Holtorf said middle school is an integral part of the growing process for young people, and ACS is addressing how sixth-graders are maturing socially and physically faster than before.

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“Our sixth-graders used to be in our elementary school, so we decided that at that point they were more like seventh-graders than they were like fifth-graders,” Holtorf explained. “In our changing world they weren’t elementary students anymore.”

Team leader Jeannie Bambrick and other teachers are going to focus on issues dealing with middle schools. ACS sent a team of five teachers to Las Vegas last April for a conference about middle school education.

“During adolescence … there is almost as much growth as birth to 5,” Holtorf said. “It’s a really neat time of their life, but it’s very challenging for them. So we thought if we put our focus on helping them … we felt it would the best for that age.”

The 18 sixth-graders, 19 seventh-graders and 19 eighth-graders will have lockers on the second floor, and will attend classes there as well. ACS is also now utilizing the third floor for a middle school science lab and classroom.

The third floor has not been used in 25-30 years, Holtorf said.