CNMI School System Plans To Merge 8 Institutions

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Elementaries would be reconfigured into middle schools

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 27, 2013) – The Public School System (PSS) of the Northern Mariana Islands bared yesterday its plan to merge not only the Gregorio T. Camacho (GTC) and Tanapag elementary schools but also six other public schools on Saipan.

Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., told the Board of Education (BOE) yesterday that the merger of the GTC and Tanapag elementary schools will be the initial phase and she recommends that this be done by school year 2013-2014, which starts in three months.

Under this proposal, GTC will house all kindergarten to fifth grade for the two schools while the Tanapag campus will become a new middle school for sixth to eighth graders.

Sablan is convinced that doing this will not only reduce overcrowding in two junior high schools but will give students in these areas equal educational opportunities.

She pointed out that junior high school students in these communities currently travel 12 miles each day to their campuses in Hopwood and Chacha Oceanview. The creation of a new Tanapag Middle School will lessen these students' travel time and give them greater opportunities for interscholastic activities, programs, and competitions.

"We have a high school and elementary school approximately in every community, so why don't we do that in middle school? Let's give them that equal share of the education that is needed for them to be equipped and successful in their puberty age," Sablan told Saipan Tribune yesterday.

The GTC-Tanapag merger is also expected to result in the much-awaited expansion of the kindergarten program as more classrooms are identified to accommodate the increasing number of kindergarten students.

"The key characteristic of this plan is that our middle schools will have smaller student-teacher ratio, interdisciplinary team-teaching, purposeful community within the context of where children live, thereby encouraging more family engagement and community involvement," said Sablan.

She believes "it's the right time" for PSS and the BOE to consider transforming some elementary school campuses into middle schools to address the needs of students between the ages of 11 and 13.

Sablan said the decline in student enrollment at GTC and Tanapag indicates that now is the right time to consolidate and transform Tanapag Elementary into a middle school.

At present, GTC has 211 students while Tanapag Elementary has 180. These two has students from kindergarten to 6th grade.

The GTC-Tanapag merger is the first phase of a bigger reconfiguration plan.

Once GTC and Tanapag are merged, GTC is projected to have 338 students from kindergarten to fifth grade, 14 classroom teachers, one principal, one counselor, and one special education teacher. Student ratio is expected at 20:1 in kindergarten to third grade and 25:1 in Grades 4-5.

The proposed Tanapag Middle School for sixth to eighth graders will have 13 teachers, one principal, one counselor, and one special education teacher, Sablan said. Students-to-teacher ratio is projected at 21:1.

Phase 1 also includes the proposed reconfiguration of Kagman Elementary School (KagES) and Chacha Oceanview Junior High. Sablan wants Kagman elementary for kindergarten to fifth grade students while Chacha will house sixth to eight graders. Chacha will be renamed the Chacha Oceanview Middle School, effective upon the opening of the new school year in September.

If this happens, KagES is expected to have 430 students and 19 classroom teachers while Chacha will have 274 students and 11 classroom teachers.

Phase 2

Sablan also disclosed yesterday plans to consolidate students of San Vicente (SVES) and Dandan elementary schools and the creation of another middle school. SVES will become home to students from kindergarten to fifth grade while the Dandan school will become the Dandan Middle School for sixth to eighth graders. This plan is recommended for enforcement in school year 2014-2015.

Under this plan, SVES will be home to 738 students and 33 teachers, for a students-to-teacher ratio of 20:1 for lower graders and 25:1 for upper graders.

For the Dandan Middle School, student enrollment is projected at 487, with 19 classroom teachers and a student-teacher ratio of 25:1.

Sablan also plans to make Koblerville Elementary School the home for kindergarten through fifth graders while converting the San Antonio Elementary School into the San Antonio Middle School.

Sablan said that Koblerville will have 27 teachers for some 598 kindergarten to fifth grade students, while the San Antonio Middle School is projected to have 343 students and 14 teachers.

Phase 3

Sablan also wants to convert the proposed Koblerville Junior High School into the Koblerville High School once the project is completed. The aim is to reduce enrollment at Marianas High School, which has over 1,400 students each school year.

Target

According to Sablan, all proposed reconfigurations are related to the system's objective to reduce the overcrowding at Hopwood Junior High School.

"This proposed transformation of some elementary schools into middle schools will eventually reduce the enrollment of Hopwood by 50 percent at the end of 2015," she said.

PSS records show that Hopwood enrollment increased by 9 percent from 2008 to 2011. In school year 2012, student population increased by 2 percent. This school year, Hopwood had 1,192 students, making it the largest junior high within the Commonwealth.

According to Sablan, these proposed mergers, reallocation of school resources, and transformations will have a positive impact on the school district.

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