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A new school tailored to the unique needs of middle school students will open on Kadena Air Base next school year, DODDS officials say.

Ryukyu Middle School, “has been designed specifically for students going through that transition from child to adolescent,” said Chip Steitz, a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific spokesman.

In the past, junior high schools for grades six through eight were designed to be “junior versions of high school curriculum and organization,” Steitz said.

But the middle school concept helps students transition from elementary school to high school, said Paul Currier, the principal for the new school.

“We bring them out of the single-classroom concept,” Currier said. “We don’t just throw them into the confusion of high school.”

Ryukyu Middle will be sectioned off for the different grades. Within each grade, the core subjects — English, math, science, etc. — will be clustered in the same hallway so that the same group of teachers teach the same group of students, he said.

Dividing the grades into smaller clusters allows teachers to better know their students and coordinate assignments so they don’t overload students, he said.

Clustering classes also gives students more study buddies, Currier said. For example, students within a cluster will attend math at different times, but they will have the same teacher and learn from the same lesson plan.

The building is set up for five sixth-grade, three seventh-grade and three eighth-grade classroom clusters, but the 2008 school year will start with only two clusters per grade, Currier said.

The goal of the new school, Steitz said, is to promote quality learning and provide several levels of assistance for students.

Assistance will include math and reading labs for those struggling in the two subjects and the Advancement Via Individual Determination program for college-bound students who are struggling academically. A gifted-resource teacher will challenge students who are on a higher level, Currier said.

The middle school also will offer foreign language classes and algebra and geometry for high school credit.

And there will be computer labs, a counseling suite, an administrative area and an an electives area for classes such as home economics, art and band.

The exterior facilities include a 400-meter track, a football and soccer field with an announcer’s booth and grandstand, a softball field, a pool house and 25-meter pool, and exterior field lighting, Steitz said.

Outfitting the school will be a combined effort by the Pacific Director’s and the Okinawa Superintendent’s offices, Steitz said, adding that “many items will be relocated from existing schools, to include furniture, books, curricular materials and computers.”

The 600 or so students who are to attend the school will come from the elementary and other middle schools in the Kadena area, but exact zoning has not yet been determined, he said.

Currently about 1,070 middle school children attend Kadena Middle School and Lester Middle School — the two schools whose populations will be shifted to make up the new school.

The 40 or so teachers for the new school all volunteered to be reassigned from current schools, so there was no additional cost to the government, Steitz said.

“It’s a good way to start — with all volunteers,” Currier said.

Currier and teachers will take possession of the school in April, and Currier said he hopes to meet with his prospective students in the spring to make sure everyone is ready for the August opening.

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