In the 15 years since Bridges Community School opened in 1999, there hasn't been a single year without a sixth grade.
The school has always been a K-6 building, even that first year when the school had just one sixth-grader enrolled, said lead teacher Robin Courrier.
But news of the plans to remodel Bridges as a K-5 school when a new middle school opens in 2016 has caused some Bridges families to leave the school early. Twelve families elected to send their kids to Franklin or Garfield elementaries for sixth grade in 2014-15, leaving just 12 students in next year's sixth-grade class at Bridges.
In order to be fiscally responsible, Bridges and Mankato Area Public Schools decided not to offer sixth grade at Bridges beginning next fall with just 12 students to one teacher. Sixth-grade class sizes in other Mankato schools are more than 30.
Courrier called the 12 remaining families with the news.
“The parents who wanted to stay are disappointed. They weren't ready for this,” Courrier said. “... (But) I just want to emphasize the opportunity that we have with this change. With choice comes opportunity.”
Jennifer Domas wanted her fifth-grade daughter, Julia, to be able to stay next year at Bridges, which is on the west side of Mankato in a building leased from St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. Domas hadn't heard until Courrier called her that sixth grade was being eliminated sooner than planned.
After some time to think about it, Julia is now OK with the move to Franklin in the fall. But when she first heard the news, she cried.
“It was a surprise. I was disappointed,” said Domas, who wanted her daughter to be able to stay at the same school as her younger sister.
Without a sixth grade, Bridges has been able to begin the process early of growing the school's population, said Heather Mueller, district director of teaching and learning. Next fall the school will offer a second section of kindergarten for the first time.