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Smooth transition complete for Hays Middle School




Some still struggle with the name change, but the transition to Hays Middle School is over.

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Some still struggle with the name change, but the transition to Hays Middle School is over.

The Hays USD 489 Board of Education closed Kennedy Middle School, which was leased from the Catholic Diocese of Salina, at the end of the 2011-12 school year, and those students transferred to the former Felten Middle School.

"I feel like the end of this school year, we are Hays Middle School, and all the good things that go with it," Craig Pallister, HMS principal, told the board of education last week.

The transition actually started during Kennedy's last year, he said.

"It took that full year before the staff and students moved out of Kennedy to have the type of transition we were able to have," Pallister said.

Shanna Dinkel, assistant principal at Felten and now HMS, was named principal for Kennedy's last year to ease the transition.

"I give her credit for bringing kids, staff and parents over, then having the success we had this year," Pallister said.

Dinkel said she shares that success with Pallister.

"Teachers have taken a leadership role, but that doesn't happen naturally, and that has everything to do with Craig (Pallister) and the way he leads," Dinkel said.

There were approximately 600 middle school students enrolled in 2012-13, and by the 2016-17 school year, administrators project the number could be nearly 800 students.

Additional students means more classroom space.

A 7,280-square-foot metal building, costing $752,600, was added to the northwest corner of HMS. The addition included six classrooms and two restrooms.

Besides the metal addition, construction of an eight classroom addition on the east side of the building is scheduled to begin this summer. The addition will be paid for in part by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As a cost-saving measure, district officials opted to keep the Felten falcon as the HMS mascot, but the school has a new logo.

"He's a much nicer, friendlier bird than he was two years ago," Pallister said.

Combining the two schools also meant new and expanded programs.

The 2012-13 school year was the first for Spanish classes for sixth-graders. The classes took place on alternate days with physical education for a year-long program using Rosetta Stone.

"It was drawn out too long for sixth-graders," Dinkel said.

Next year, Spanish will be a nine-week class that meets every day for sixth graders. Some seventh- and eighth-grade students also will be able to enroll. The class will include coursework, gaming that reinforces the lessons, and a studio section with native speakers and learning about the culture.

Combining the schools has allowed the middle school music program to be enhanced to include honor choir, and band and orchestra have graded levels.

Communications classes include one-act plays and small group interactions, and shop classes have expanded into woods.

Aerobics, weights and conditioning -- "things in the curriculum they can carry on" -- are components of physical education classes, Pallister said.

Seventh-grade volleyball, football, basketball and tennis as well as instructional leagues will give more students an opportunity to get involved.

There's also seventh- and eighth-grade dance team and cheerleading.

"Staff, certified and classified, is key to the transition," Pallister said. "All of those people have bought in to make Hays Middle School the best possible. We needed to build a team."