Gautier students eager to learn at new 5th-6th grade academy

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - For the first time, all 5th and 6th graders in Gautier are learning under one roof this school year. The Pascagoula School district rolled out its new academy at Singing River Elementary this year. The move is part a restructuring plan to improve education district-wide.

Marcus McInnis is now learning with kids his own age and he couldn't be more excited about it.

"The last time I was here at Singing River Elementary, I said things really needed to be shaped up a little. But when I saw Singing River Academy I was like, 'Wow, this is a great school,'" McInnis said.

Kindergarten through 5th grade used to be housed here at the school. District officials said the change was necessary in order to boost academic achievement.

"We started about three years ago in Pascagoula, putting the 5th and 6th graders together, and we were able to do it here after some construction," Assistant Superintendent Belinda Dammen said. The expansion includes 16 new classrooms rooms, a state of the art computer lab, and gym. The students are also switching classes for the first time. Instead of having one teacher, they will have three or four instructors throughout the day.

"Definitely responsibility. It is no longer holding their hand along the whole process. It is a more mature level. Now they are responsible for taking home their homework, bringing it back and brining in assignments," teacher Elizabeth Bailey said.

There is also activity time to let their creative juices flow.

"They get to go to the computer lab and music, and then in 6th grade if they choose band. They get art. This is the first time. We provided it on the elementary level, but once they get in 5th grade, they actually have a teacher they get to go to," Dammen said.

Sixth grader Kerstin Tuck admits she was nervous the first day of school, but now she loves the academy.

"I was scared my teachers were going to be mean and now it is going a lot better. It is so fun here," said Tuck.

Having fun and staying focused on learning will help the students make the grade this school year. Because of the reconfiguration, all pre-K through 4th grade students attend the remaining elementary schools in Gautier.

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