Wednesday morning, Stanfield Elementary School teacher Kim Harwood was back in the classroom, teaching students how to tell time. The class listened together, answered questions together and completed worksheets in small groups.

For half of the students, the unit was a review; for the other half, it was new information because Harwood is teaching one of two “blended” classes at Stanfield Elementary this year.

Blended classes combine students from two grade levels into one classroom.

“This is something new we’re doing this year because we’re down on enrollment,” Principal and Superintendent Kevin Headings said. “It keeps the numbers low.”

With the enrollment decline, Stanfield School District had to cut two teaching positions last year — one through retirement and one through a teacher who accepted a job in the Hermiston School District. Typically, the school has two classes for each grade level in first through sixth grades. This year, instead of having one large or two small classes in low-enrolled grades, the school combined those students into blended classes.

For Harwood, that blend is a mix of first- and second-graders. On the other side of the school, David Nycz is teaching a blended fifth- and sixth-grade class. “Because of our low class numbers, we combined two grades, so instead of having two fifth-grade classes of 17 students, we have one full fifth grade class and one class mixed with sixth-graders,” Headings said.

For Nycz, the blended class is a familiar challenge. Although he has taught sixth-grade for the past five years, he previously taught 10 years at the middle-school level, including seventh- and eighth-grade classes, blended based on ability. 

“I teach them all equally. Right now I’m not seeing any real difference between the fifth-graders and the sixth-graders, but the fifth-graders are asking more questions,” Nycz said. “The sixth-graders have a whole year of knowledge that the fifth-graders don’t.”

The 12 fifth-graders in the blended class were chosen for the opportunity. Some students were selected based on maturity level while others were chosen who may have acted out in previous classes needed a challenge.

“I think it’s provided some solutions to some behavioral challenges by challenging the students,” Nycz said. “They chose students that can handle some of those challenges.”

The fifth-graders who finish the school year in the blended class may also have the opportunity for more challenges next year.

“It’s got the potential for these students to have seventh-grade classes next year.” Nycz said. “These students are ready to be challenged.”


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