Schools set to welcome sixth-graders - Catholic Courier

Schools set to welcome sixth-graders

When sixth-graders arrive at three Catholic high schools for the first time this coming fall, they will be greeted with accommodations that are aimed at easing their transition to their new schools, educators say.

Each of the three Monroe County Catholic high schools adding sixth grades in the fall say they have planned accommodations to meet the younger students’ unique educational needs, including separate schedules, enrichment programs, and club and intramural sports offerings.

McQuaid Jesuit in Brighton, Our Lady of Mercy High School and Middle School in Brighton, and Bishop Kearney High School and Junior High in Irondequoit will add sixth grades for the first time in September, after receiving permission to do so from Bishop Matthew H. Clark in late 2010.

To make room for its new sixth-grade students, McQuaid is building six additional high-school classrooms on its high-school wing. The addition will free up space for sixth-graders in four middle-school classrooms located near the middle-school office. Construction, which will total about $4.5 million and is being funded by a capital campaign, began in December.

Crews also will replace the school’s boiler system and update the kitchen-service area, giving it a restaurant-like atmosphere.

McQuaid’s staff also has been planning ways to give students a varied experience as they progress through their years at McQuaid, said Joe Feeney, dean of admissions.

"We as an administrative staff want to make the McQuaid experience continual but different," he said.

A separate schedule with few class changes, longer homeroom, recess after lunch and a separate orientation program are among the measures designed to give the sixth-grade students a sheltered transition to a secondary-school setting, said John Finn, middle-school dean. A greater use of field trips also may be incorporated into the curriculum, and sixth-graders will have breaks for healthy snacks. Their classrooms will have chairs that are separate from desks to give teachers greater flexibility in classroom configurations.

The school hopes to welcome more than 60 sixth-grade students and, if enrollment warrants, will consider adding a fourth faculty member to the three sixth-grade teachers who already have been hired. The sixth-grade teachers will focus specifically on teaching religion, English language arts and literature.

McQuaid’s tuition for 2012-13 will be $8,500 for the sixth grade, and $11,150 for seventh to 12th grades. The school offers need-based financial aid, which will be available to students in all grades, Feeney said.

Our Lady of Mercy Middle and High School likewise will segregate its sixth-graders from the rest of the school and employ a different schedule. The school’s sixth-grade suite will consist of two classrooms on its own floor in the school’s middle-school wing. Suzanne Johnston, Mercy’s president, said the school has hired two faculty members who will spend the bulk of the day with the sixth-graders. One teacher specializes in English language arts and social studies, while the other specializes in math, science and technology.

"This is very much based on the fact that they are very young people who don’t need to see seven to eight teachers a day," Johnston said. "They do best when they are working with two faculty members for the bulk of their day."

Sixth-graders at the school also will receive 10-week enrichment cycles in world languages, research and library skills, performing arts and visual arts. Students will get to take monthly field trips to enhance their in-class learning, Johnston said.

"We see it in many ways as the best of both worlds," Johnston said. "It is going to be a very monitored, structured environment designed for sixth-graders, who are really emerging adolescents, but it will have the enhancements of being on a large campus."

Sixth-grade tuition at Mercy will be $6,000, and financial aid is available.

At Bishop Kearney, meanwhile, tuition will be $3,975 for grades 6 to 8, and $8,000 for 9 to 12. Because tuition has been reduced for the junior high, financial aid is not available, but discounts are offered for multiple family members, said Fred Tillinghast, Kearney’s director of admissions.

Tillinghast said preparations for the incoming sixth-grade class actually began when Kearney added its middle school in 2008. Classroom space is available in Kearney’s middle-school wing, which is separate from its high-school classrooms.

"We currently have our classrooms ready to go," Tillinghast said.

The school will set the same dress code for the sixth-graders as for the rest of the student body, and sixth-graders will have access to the same technology, including laptops, that are available to other students.

"We think it’s going to be a great fit," Tillinghast said.

Aquinas Institute also opened seventh and eighth grades in 2008, but as part of its partnership with Nazareth Schools in 2010, students in preschool through sixth grade attend the coeducational Nazareth Elementary before moving on to seventh grade at Aquinas.

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