Keeping Younger Teens Separated by Grade

District administrator explains why seventh, eighth and ninth grades will have their own buildings.


Nate Husen

An addition to Bixby Middle School will be for seventh graders.

Nate Husen, Reporter

With phase two of the Ninth Grade Center complete and construction of the expanded seventh/eighth center underway, Bixby students will spend three consecutive years insulated from other grade levels.

Jamie Milligan, Bixby Public Schools’ executive director of secondary education, says separating freshmen helps them make a smooth transition into a high school. She adds that a student forum at the Ninth Grade Center indicated a general preference for being isolated.

Milligan points out that when one considers the difference in maturity between a freshman and a senior, it’s pretty clear that freshmen are at different points in lives. She also says an extra step in the progression from honors classes to pre-Advanced Placement and AP courses makes the educational transition easier.

Some may wonder about the price ($9.82 million for the Ninth Grade Center and a projected $17 million for the middle school expansion) associated with a new building for just one class, but it is more economic than the alternative, Milligan says. She adds that the cost of overpopulating the middle school, causing crowded classes and lunches, is at least equal to having two buildings. The new buildings provide a release valve for the overflow population, too, by spreading students out into more classes with smaller sizes.

Other schools across the country have also isolated entire classes of students. In Florida’s Miami-Dade County public schools, grade separation has helped with student retention, officials say. Administrators found that it made for a better social and educational experience, increased the number of facilities available, and raised the number of students who remained in school to graduation.