Natomas High Campus to House New Middle School

Building K, pictured on the left, will house the new middle school program on the Natomas High campus. / Photo by J.McWright, NHS intern

Building K, pictured on the left, will house the new, yet-to-be-named middle school program on the Natomas High campus. / Photo by Jeremiah McWright, NHS intern

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

A new, yet-to-be-named middle school program is set to open this fall on the Natomas High School campus.

The middle school program will be housed on the far left wing of the campus, in what is currently referred to as Building K.

Approving a contract with Nacht & Lewis Architects to prepare Building K for the new program is on tonight’s Natomas Unified school board meeting scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at 1901 Arena Boulevard.

“We want to bring choices and options for the students in the region,” said Marnie Lynch, the school district’s Director of School Leadership and Support.

Marnie Lynch, left, is spearheading the new middle school program. / Photo: J.McWright

Marnie Lynch, left, is spearheading the new middle school program. / Photo: Jeremiah McWright, NHS intern

The Natomas Unified School District is creating the program to offer another option for 7th and 8th graders who live in south Natomas and, according to officials, hopefully boost declining enrollment at the high school as a result.

According to Natomas High principal Mark Beebe, the middle school is expected to enroll about 180 7th graders the first year. Those 7th graders will move up to 8th grade the following year to make room for a new class of 7th graders.

The building slated to house the new middle school program has capacity for between 400 and 450 students. School district officials said incoming 7th graders will likely come from the south Natomas elementary schools such as American Lakes, Jefferson and Bannon Creek, while Two Rivers will feed into Leroy Greene Academy and Natomas Middle School.

Natomas Unified is an open enrollment district. Currently, 7th and 8th grade programs can be found at Natomas Middle School, Heron School, and Leroy Greene Academy, Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep, Westlake Charter and Natomas Charter.

“Students can choose to go to any school they want and have a voice in their education,” said Lynch, who has taken the lead on planning since plans for the new middle school were announced last year.

For the past year Lynch said she has hosted informal parent nights at elementary schools to talk about the new middle school program. She said she has also spoken to every single 6th grader in the feeder schools by visiting their classrooms in the south Natomas elementary schools.

Lynch said she has plans to schedule more formal meetings with students, parents and community members in the coming months. She is slated to serve as the principal for the new middle school.

The middle school is being located on the Natomas High campus to save money on construction, according to Beebe and Lynch. Its location far from the central part of the campus is the safest and most efficient, they said.

“Natomas High School is designed to hold 2,000 students and adding 180 students will not impact the high students at all,” said Beebe. “…I expect the high school students to be mentors and models for the middle schoolers.”

Currently, 1,094 High School students are enrolled at Natomas High School, according to the California Department of Education database.

Although the middle school will be located on the Natomas High campus, it will have its own identity, facilities and mascot, according to Lynch. Construction to redesign the building and add room for a new school office, health room and counseling is under way and is expected to be finished by the summer, she said.

“I think that it’ s a fine addition to the campus if they find a way to keep the two schools separate,” said high school junior Kaleem Anwar, 16. “There’s a very big age difference between an 18 year-old and 12 year-old, and I don’t want students to bully or pick on the middle schoolers.”

Although the bell schedule for the middle school has not yet been decided, a safety plan is reportedly in the works to ensure the middle schoolers’ safety. Lynch said, for example, that all 7th and 8th grade students would escorted everywhere they go on campus.

Academically, students in the new middle school will be able to take “a-g” courses, which the University of California requires for incoming freshmen. The program will also encompass a Junior Doctors Academy, Robotics Academy, as well as Automation, according to a brochure about the new middle school.

The Junior Doctors Academy is meant to spark interest in health careers and feed students into Natomas High’s Bio Medical Academy, Lynch said.

“Although we have not had any collaboration with the middle school regarding the Junior Doctors Academy, we are very excited to work with the middle school staff in growing and feeding the Bio Medical Academy,” teacher Susan Jellema said. Jellema oversees the Biomed Academy at Natomas High.

According to Lynch, students attending the new middle school will be allowed to take classes such as advanced mathematics with high school students. It is possible middle schoolers will also be able to take foreign language classes with high schoolers, too.

“Being in such close proximity to Natomas High School will allow students who achieve higher to take classes that they can be challenged at,” said Christine Lanphere, the high school’s World Language Department head.

The middle school program will also share facilities with high school program such as the PE rooms and at least one science classroom.

“The greatest thing about having a middle school on a high school campus is the academic program,” said Lynch. “The students will not only be able to take classes at the high school but also be able to engage in academic conversations with high schoolers. The middle school opens up options and opportunities that students can take advantage of.”

Orientation days for the new middle school are scheduled to take place the first week of August.

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