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Mid school change rejected

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The Rio Rancho Public Schools Board has decided against making Rio Rancho Middle School a fifth- through eighth-grade campus after a report from staff pointed to some serious concerns about the idea.

Associate superintendent Carl Leppelman gave a report to the board Monday night. A committee had explored the idea at the request of the board as a way to alleviate overcrowding at Martin Luther King Jr., Ernest Stapleton and Maggie Cordova elementary schools. The idea was to shift fifth-graders at each of those schools to the Rio Rancho Middle School campus, which has space.

Leppleman told the board that while it would accomplish that, he had many concerns. One main concern is that some of those students would have to transition to the new campus as fifth-graders and then move again to another middle school as sixth-graders. He said he was afraid of the impact that would have on their achievement. He said there was also concern about having fifth-graders on the same campus as eighth-graders. He said there is a big gap in emotional and mental maturity at that age.

Earlier this school year, the board considered redrawing attendance boundaries for the overcrowded elementary schools and shifting some students elsewhere to alleviate overcrowding. It decided the move would not alleviate the problem enough to justify the disruption.

Vice president Don Schlichte said the district should maintain the status quo for a year and see how the attendance figures play out next school year. Superintendent Sue Cleveland said she is not expecting much growth in enrollment numbers for those three overcrowded elementary schools next year. The district plans to open Joe Harris Elementary in a few years, which would address the issue of overcrowding.

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