Skip to main content

Murray Journal

Ninth grade moves to high school as part of school board’s latest decisions shaping future of Murray schools

May 07, 2024 03:08PM ● By Julie Slama

At the April 18, Murray Board of Education Vice President Kelly Taeoalii speaks to the proposed boundary shift as the Board President Jaren Cooper listens. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

In three separate unanimous votes, the Murray Board of Education approved a 2024-25 school boundary change, the transition of sixth graders to middle school and ninth graders to high school, and a bond measure to rebuild Riverview Junior High to a middle school model and adding on to Murray High.

The boundary change impacts about 70 students, moving them from Parkside Elementary to Liberty Elementary. This will reduce the size of Parkside’s 400-plus students and boost Liberty’s enrollment of 225 to about 300.

The students who will transition to Liberty live in the northern Murray School District boundary north of Fireclay Avenue and west of State Street.

“I don’t know that any of us agree that this is the perfect plan; it’s the best plan,” Board Vice President Kelly Taeoalii said during the special April 18 board meeting, adding that other plans would have shifted more students.

The second vote was to reconfigure the District’s schools into a middle school model of sixth through eighth grades, moving ninth-grade students to the high school, like many of the neighboring school districts and those across the country.

It wasn’t a decision made easily as Board members said it was only after researching, talking to teachers and administrators and even visiting other districts’ schools, that they reached their decision this would be best for Murray District.

Board member Jill Weight is a former elementary school teacher.

“When thinking of bringing the sixth graders up, it kind of scared me for them, so I did a lot of reading, research that way, talked to strangers,” she said at the meeting adding that she also talked first-hand with some parents and neighboring districts about the issue.

Through research and conversations she had about the sixth graders, Weight believes the middle school model is best for Murray. She also supported moving ninth graders to the high school.

“I think they’ll realize that they are getting grades that will influence their college opportunities,” Weight said. “I think it will also offer opportunities to them that they just can’t have in the junior high because of the way the junior high is structured and the programs that are being offered at the high school.”

Other considerations were mentioned such as currently elementary schools are expected to serve 5-year-olds through 12-year-olds with classroom sizes and school meal serving sizes being the same. Board members also pointed out that socially and emotionally, sixth graders have more in common with middle schoolers than with younger elementary students and along the same lines, ninth graders fit better with high school students.

The meeting’s final vote was to put the school construction projects as a bond measure on the general election ballot in November. 

The timeline for the construction projects and grade reconfiguration is dependent upon the outcome of the bond vote in November. If it passes, District officials expect to break ground this coming winter on the projects and upon completion, the students will align in accordance to the board’s vote. If it fails, the grades still will configure since it was a separate vote and that decision will be forthcoming, said Murray District spokesman Doug Perry.

The construction of the new Riverview school, built in 1961, and addition to Murray High has been something the Board has considered for a while, Board member Kami Anderson said at the meeting.

“This has always been in the back of our minds,” she said. “When is the right time to deal with some of our aging facilities? We have pushed it and pushed it. We had a recession; we had COVID; another little recession. I feel like it’s the right time. We have been very, very cautious of raising any kind of taxes. With this in mind, we know that this will be an added expense to our taxpayers, but an investment in facilities that provides the best opportunity for our kids is a good place to be. It’s been a very, very long time coming, and I’m excited to see what we have in the near future.”

Murray Board of Education President Jaren Cooper said it’s the first bond measure the Board was requested in more than a dozen years; the last request was in 2012 to rebuild Hillcrest Junior High.

“Bond measures are not an easy decision,” Cooper said. “But I am confident in our homework. We have 

studied this issue for many years and believe acting now will save taxpayers millions (and) continue our promise of a quality public education.”

As per law, the Board provided several meetings for the public to make comments after it made its initial recommendations on Jan. 12. λ