One way in: only having one feeder middle school creates a problem with the social dynamic

Keithan Sharp, Staff writer

As students transition from middle school to high school, one of the common fears is the difficulty fitting in. This isn’t a problem at our school, though, because this school is the only high school in the district with one feeder middle school.

This presents a problem. Every year, the majority of the graduating class is the same group of students from their sixth grade days at Aubry Bend middle school, all the way until they walk across the stage their senior year.

Every other district high school has two middle schools that make up the freshman class except for Southwest, which relies solely on ABMS; Aubry Bend principal Diana Tate said this is a frequent concern among parents and students questioning whether or not to continue on the road to becoming a Timberwolf.

“There are kids and families who feel like that’s kind of a negative because three years in middle school and four years in high school with the same group of kiddos and only a few people coming in can be hard,” Tate said.

Junior Anna Comstock attended Lakewood middle school and transferred to Southwest after one year at Blue Valley West, but said she moved so she could meet new people and had no trouble fitting in.

“It’s tough because people already have their friend groups,” Comstock said. “But I feel like people are really friendly here, so it wasn’t too hard to find a friend group.”

Due to the fact that Southwest only has one feeder school, it also has the fewest students of the five district high schools, but senior Kolin Demel said he enjoys the unique dynamic presented by having one middle school.

“If anything, everyone is closer because we have all been together for so long,” Demel said. “I feel like it’d be kind of weird, like in other high schools, if we had to see other middle schoolers, meet all these other kids.”

Comstock said a drawback of only having one middle school is athletics because there are simply fewer opportunities to compete against large, competitive teams.

“Sports wise, I’d probably say [it’s a] disadvantage just because you’re playing against smaller schools, so you’re not having the best competition,” Comstock said. “But I think it’s good how it is now having one [middle school], just because I feel like it’s what Southwest is kind of known for.”

Aubry Bend has three elementary schools: Morse Elementary, Timber Creek Elementary and Wolf Springs Elementary, that feed into it, but it is counter-productive to add students in sixth grade and then refuse to add in ninth grade after these students have developed different personalities.

“[In] elementary school, you’re together for six years, and so, when you come into middle school we really see a benefit that we have three elementaries together because they are getting to know new people and new families and it is a bigger world out there,” Tate said. “I think that would be the main thing for Southwest if we brought two middle schools together for ninth grade.”

Demel, who has had a core group of friends since middle school, said he can understand how it would be challenging for a new student to find new friends especially considering how everyone has known each other for so long, but he said it could also be good practice for the transition to college.

“I think it’s good to have a solid group of friends going in [to high school] because that’s one less thing and it’s kind of scary entering high school,” Demel said. “Going into college, you have to meet all new people and that’s kind of daunting.”

Of course, there’s nothing stopping students from mingling with new people in high school, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen near enough, especially during the first two years of high school.

“I think it would be more beneficial [to add a second middle school], not only for the size but also for the opportunities to bring a whole new perspective in,” Tate said.

The fact of the matter is Southwest’s student body is robbed of the opportunity to meet new people during high school, and without this influx from another middle school, the social dynamic at Southwest can stale after seven years. To fix this problem, the district needs to stop adding students to other high schools, and focus its attention on a second middle school for Southwest.

“Kids are looking to build new relationships and find friendships with people who have other things in common with them,” Tate said. “When you don’t incorporate a whole other school, the opportunity for that maybe isn’t there.”