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Identity crisis

Eleven-year-old Mitchell Alexander admits it's a little nerve-wracking attending middle school. "We're all just getting used to it," he said. But overall, the fifth-grader said he and his Kennedy Elementary peers were excited to enter Discovery M...

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Eleven-year-old Mitchell Alexander admits it's a little nerve-wracking attending middle school.

"We're all just getting used to it," he said.

But overall, the fifth-grader said he and his Kennedy Elementary peers were excited to enter Discovery Middle School a year early - the district's solution to alleviate their elementary school's overcrowding.

"They all think it's cool," he said. "We're not the oldest kids."

A month into school, administrators and parents say the transition has been smooth for the 90 fifth-graders.

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"I think they're doing really well," Discovery Principal Linda Davis said.

Many of the concerns parents and teachers vocalized last spring - such as bullying - have been addressed, she added.

The fifth-graders are housed in their own "pod," keeping them separate from older students. They also have their own entrance and exit of where they board two buses 15 minutes early at the beginning and end of the day, shuttling them to Kennedy to ride their usual routes. A playground was even installed so they can keep recess.

"Their day still looks like an elementary day schedule," Kennedy Principal Maggie Mitzel said, adding curriculum stayed the same.

Other concerns were answered such as what yearbook the fifth-graders will be in (Discovery's) or which principal oversees them (physically, it's Davis, and academically, it's Mitzel).

But the question over how long Kennedy fifth-graders will attend Discovery is less certain.

Lowell Wolff, assistant superintendent of communications, said it's indefinite, dependent on when another elementary school is built.

"It's going to be governed by growth," he said of Kennedy, which, even without the fifth-graders, will have to add two portables this winter to accommodate the almost 500 students in its building (which has a capacity of about 530).

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Fifth-grade parent Danielle Larson said that, at least for this year, the change worked.

"They seem to adjust really well," said Larson, the president-elect of Discovery PTA. "We want them to feel a part of that school."

That "identity crisis," was the biggest issue at first, Davis said. "They really say, 'Well, where do we belong?'"

For Amy Alexander's son Mitchell, he paused before answering: "Discovery," then added it's not a big deal. "It's just another school."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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