Due to overcrowding at the elementary school in Ellendale, sixth-graders will be moving into the high school building in New Richland beginning this fall.

The New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva school board voted Tuesday night that the move was the best decision to deal with steadily increasing enrollment. There are four sections of kindergarten, first grade and second grade. There are three sections each of third through sixth grade.

“We’re at capacity,” said Supt. Kevin Wellen.

With four sections of kindergarten anticipated in the fall, the decision had to be made on how best to free up space in the elementary school, which houses 526 students. Seventh- and eighth-graders currently occupy the junior high wing of the high school in New Richland, which houses 413 students. So Wellen said the 75 sixth-graders would also be mostly isolated in that wing from high schoolers, in case parents might be concerned about sixth-graders being exposed to more mature students too soon.

Wellen said the switch will free up three classrooms at the Ellendale elementary school, one of which would be filled immediately if kindergarten has four sections in the fall. However, the space would be put to good use, he said. The extra space would alleviate stress on various programs sharing space.

“They won’t sit empty,” Wellen said. “It’ll basically just take the pressure off of what we have now.”

So far, Wellen said he hasn’t received much feedback on the switch, which will also affect sixth-grade teachers and staff, special education programming and some electives.

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