Middle schools are not yet extinct, but they are on the endangered list. K-8 schools are quickly swallowing up the middle schools, replacing them with great frequency. There are several pros and cons to this logistical strategy by school boards. Whether or not you are proponent of this decision, it certainly does have a few merits to accompany its flaws.
The decision to replace middle schools with K-8 schools is largely based on financial reasons. Fewer buildings equals fewer teachers, which is quite the no-brainer from the school board perspective. Whether or not K-8 schools should replace middle schools is a topic for debate, with many pros and cons for both sides of the argument. Not every student benefits from either scenario, so school boards are in a bit of a pickle in this regard.
The biggest pro is, of course, the fact that students can remain in one location, and grow through the developmental stages. A K-8 school serves as a safe haven, a learning environment that is friendly and comfortable. Change may provide anxiety, or might be the welcomed change many students desperately require. Students suffer in that they do not get a fair transition period with the middle school. It is a much more natural transition to keep progressing slowly, rather than trying to adjust to high school all of a sudden.
School Boards wish to close middle schools so that they have fewer buildings to maintain, and can therefore have fewer teachers on staff. This is not a good reason, but it certainly makes sense from a financial perspective. Just because it is a financially sound reason does not make it wise from an educational standpoint. This is a huge con to replacing middle schools.
Keeping students in the same school for a longer period of time can help them to become more confident over the course of the years, and allow them the chance to experience the different age groups as they cruise along their academic odyssey. This feeling of comfort brings with it heightened confidence and self esteem, both of which are essential to the healthy growth and development of a child. This is a huge pro for replacing middle schools with K-8 schools.
Not having the transition period of middle school can be detrimental to students, since they will no longer have that gateway towards added responsibility and maturity. Middle schools offer students a chance to get away from the recess mentality of school, and strive towards becoming a more academically independent student. Without the middle schools, students will spend a lot of time feeling like they are young, and not readying them for the adulthood that awaits them in high school. High school is a quick few years, and then they are thrust into post-secondary school or the world of work, both of which involve heightened maturity.
On the other hand, a K-8 school gives children that sense of security, the safe haven that allows them to grow at their own pace. Avoiding a middle school can allow the student to come into his or her own from an academic and personal philosophy. A student in Grade 7 may not be ready to relinquish their status at elementary school and become a tiny fish in a big pond. As puberty and maturity strike, perhaps a student needs to feel as though they are in familiar territory.
From the standpoint of a green environment, fewer school buildings uses less energy, leaving a smaller footprint on the environment. The green movement will enact many changes in education over the coming years, so this might just be a stepping stone to some bolder moves and initiatives.
Every student thrives in different atmospheres. Being in a K-8 school, or in middle school, will impact differently on each individual student. Time will tell if the decision to replace middle schools is a wise one. As long as teachers actively prepare their students for high school and post-secondary school, then it becomes a moot point.