Many of the students suspended from Mont Pleasant Middle School because they were deemed a safety risk are back in classes — but not at Mont Pleasant.
In the second week of October, 18 students were suspended indefinitely from the school. City schools Superintendent Laurence Spring said none would ever return to Mont Pleasant.
A few weeks later, some were promoted to ninth grade and sent to the high school, Spring said. Those students were eighth-graders who were about 16 years old — much older than their 13-year-old classmates, Spring said. And he argued that they were ready for high school.
“They predominantly passed eighth grade. They failed maybe one subject,” he said. “In high school, if a freshman fails ninth grade English, they take all 10th-grade classes, but they take ninth-grade English again. In eighth grade, you take all of eighth grade [again] or you go on to the high school.”
But promoting the 16-year-old eighth-graders in late October meant they were at least seven weeks behind in their new classes. In the subjects they failed at Mont Pleasant, they were more than a year behind.
Spring acknowledged the students have a “gigantic amount” of work to do to catch up.
“They’re going to continue to need support,” he said.
Students have been assigned to extra-help classes, special education teachers and counselors, depending on their needs, he said.
Spring said those students won’t be bringing Mont Pleasant’s violence to the high school.
“These were not kids who were being violent,” he said. “But they weren’t being in class, either.”
He’s hoping high school classes will hold their attention, particularly in the subjects they passed last year.
Some of the other suspended students have been sent to the Steinmetz Career and Leadership Academy, where they were enrolled in Success Academy for Middle School Students, a special program for failing middle-school students.
The program is designed to give students the chance to complete two middle-school years in 10 months — allowing seventh-graders to bypass eighth grade and jump straight to ninth grade next year.
But it’s hard work. Many students don’t manage to cram two years worth of information into one year. Those who don’t manage that often complete all of their seventh-grade work, allowing them to move on to eighth grade, school administrators said.
Other suspended students are still at Washington Irving, where they get tutoring for three hours a day. Spring said the district is working with BOCES to create special programs for those students.