Flashback: Kensington Woods High School adds seventh and eighth grades

Kensington Woods High School adds seventh and eighth grades

Livingston Press & Argus
Christopher Behnan
October 5, 2011

The first day of high school is often overwhelming for freshmen as they enter new, larger schools with older students and greater expectations.

Once a big fish in a small pond, new high schoolers are small fish in a bigger pond -- and face new academic challenges some aren't ready for, some school officials said.

Kensington Woods High School this year got ahead of that trend by adding seventh grade and eighth grade to its building housed on Cleary University's Genoa Township campus.

The program's goal is to better prepare junior high students in the areas of math, science, English and social studies before ninth grade.

"You've got to have the foundation. The idea of getting kids earlier is something we've been talking about for a while," said Kensington Woods Principal Jim Perry.

"There's the demand there again to have an option for students outside the really big middle school models that are in Livingston County," Perry added.

Kensington Woods, now offering grades 7-12, is a charter school through Central Michigan University. Charter schools are funded with public dollars, but generally offer more individual attention than larger public schools.

The expanded program began this school year, and brought in roughly 24 seventh-grade and eighth-grade students. Kensington Woods now has roughly 150 students, but lost about half its students to the new grades 9-12 FlexTech High School, also chartered through CMU, at the former Genoa Woods Conference Center.

Kensington Woods' junior high school program puts seventh- and eight-grade students in one classroom for English, social studies and science, each with high school teachers.

Those students go to different classrooms for math and elective courses.

The focus of the seventh- and eighth-grade classroom will "flip-flop" from seventh-grade-level topics to eighth-grade-level topics each year in social studies, English and science, Perry explained.

He said those subject areas are more topical than skills-based subjects, which will makes instruction appropriate for both seventh-graders and eighth-graders any given year.

The new curriculum also allows junior high students to take advanced math and science courses.

While younger students are exposed to upperclassman, the junior high students' main classroom and locker area is separated from high school classrooms and lockers. Seventh- and eighth-graders also have a separate lunch period.

"That's kind of by design, which is tough to do in such a small facility, but I think we've been successful at it so far," Perry said.

"Early adolescent kids are a squirrely bunch it's just a high- energy couple years. It's been great to have them in the building, but it's certainly a different way of teaching," he added.

Kensington Woods expects the junior high program to grow in the next two years, and is seeking a new location to accommodate that growth, Perry said. He said the new site will be in Livingston County and that it would, hopefully, be near the current campus.

Howell resident Tina Honey's daughter, Alex, graduated from Kensington Woods last year, and her younger daughter and son currently attend the school.

Tina Honey said Alex, in particular, would have benefited from a junior high program.

Alex Honey transferred from Howell High School her junior year after struggling with math. After improving at Kensington Woods, she graduated co-salutatorian and today is a math education major at Baker College in Owosso.

"I wish they would've have started a seventh and eight grade earlier," Tina Honey said.

FlashbackJessie Pratt