New school year ends old ways



A new school year starts next Wednesday for Federal Way Public Schools, but the real excitement is 12 months away.

The opening of a new high school and the start of a middle school system a year from now will be on the minds of students and educators as they dust off the books and desks for the district’s 2002-03 version of public education.

Starting next fall, sixth-graders will be middle school students, sharing space with seventh and eighth-graders in what are now junior highs. Ninth-graders won’t be there; they’ll join sophomores, juniors and seniors at one of five high school campuses, including the new one that’s under construction in the southeast corner of the district.

District officials say preparations this school year are critical to the middle school and high school transitions of next year’s sixth and ninth-graders –– and their parents.

Superintendent Tom Murphy said parents leery of their children attending school with older students must be assured “that their students will be in a safe and powerful learning environment.”

Before coming to Federal Way, Murphy was a principal at a high school that added ninth-graders. Many of them “were just lost” in the new, larger surroundings, which is what he and other administrators will try to prevent here as they work out transition details, he said.

The switch is underway because of a Federal Way School Board decision five years ago that a system with four-year high schools would eventually lead to students better-prepared to graduate. The conversion ties in with the start in 2006 of new state requirements for graduation.

The first day of classes for 2002-03 –– the beginning of the end for the old grade system –– is five days away. Answering the opening bell Wednesday will be approximately 22,000 students districtwide in 23 elementary schools, seven junior highs (including Federal Way Public Academy, a college preparatory program), and four high schools, including the Truman alternative high.

Teachers and other school personnel (including about 100 new teachers districtwide and new principals at Saghalie Junior High and Lake Grove Elementary School) will begin their final preparations Monday. Students and their families will be enjoying the tail end of the summer break –– and maybe finishing their back-to-school shopping.

On that note, school officials are collecting donations of school supplies for underprivileged children. The most-needed items are scissors, colored pencils and markers, white glue and glue sticks, and wide-ruled and college-ruled notebook paper (single-sheet and spiral notebooks).

Donations can be made at the district’s Community Resource Center at SeaTac Mall or the district’s headquarters (Educational Services Center) at 31405 18th Ave. S. Checks for cash contributions can be made payable to the FWPTA Clothing Bank. Additional information is available from Rosie Bird at 945-2260, Alyce Benge at 945-2075, Dana Harris at 945-2076 or Geri Walker at 945-2071.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and

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