Give grade-level grouping plan a chance

The transition to the recently adopted grade-level grouping plan in Johnstown for its elementary schools may be difficult for residents, but we encourage everyone to approach the plan with an open mind.

The plan will realign the Greater Johnstown School District’s elementary school buildings to group prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade at Pleasant Avenue School; grades two and three at Glebe Street School; and grades four, five and six at Warren Street School.

The district said the transition will require some upfront renovation costs, but the expense should be an investment that results in greater opportunities for students.

The idea of grade-level grouping isn’t new. It’s used in many other districts. In a guest column in this newspaper, Johnstown Superintendent Robert DeLilli pointed out a review of 23 rural and suburban districts in the state found more than 104 schools use elementary grade-level grouping rather than the K-5 and K-6 models.

“Each district’s change in structure was made for their own reasons, likely no two exactly the same,” he said.

Each school district is different and has its own specific needs. What works in one district may not work for another.

Some Johnstown district parents will be inconvenienced when they have to drive their children who are close in age to separate schools. Children who otherwise may have participated in the same school programs will be at different schools.

We understand this concern, but many parents in local districts already take their children to separate schools if the children are several years apart in age.

We see benefits in grade-level grouping. Teachers who instruct the same grades will be working together in the same building, giving them the opportunity to learn from each other, share programs and resources, and keep the school focused on only two or three grade levels. In addition, no school will have the stigma – true or not – of being a school for children from low-income families.

We also see the benefit in students learning together from kindergarten to graduation. It may be easier for students to transition between schools when they already know each other.

We ecourage students, parents, teachers, administrators and school board members in Johnstown to stay positive about the grade-level grouping plan.