MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of students on Long Island are spending their summer in limbo.

After first preparing to move up to middle school, they have now been told they’ll return to elementary school.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Massapequa’s new school board has a different philosophy about when children are ready to advance.

Just weeks ago, the district’s first fifth grade class to be sent on to middle school marched in a jubilant moving up ceremony. Now, the same kids are marching in protest.

“Let us go!” the chanted Wednesday.

They don’t want to go backwards, but last week their school board reversed a decision made over a year ago. So 550 soon-to-be sixth graders will stay put in elementary schools.

“She’s in tears, she’s very confused. This is more psychological and emotional damage than going to middle school could ever do,” mother Laura Greene said.

“We know that the academic program in the middle school model is far superior to the one they can get in the elementary school,” fellow parent Rose Stein said.

Outraged parents said they plan to protest and appeal to the state education commissioner. Meanwhile, petitions are circulating.

Students who prepared for the transition said their hopes were dashed.

“I was happy to make new friends, have a locker and switch classes,” Emily Reynolds said.

“They were going to learn a new language, do a lot of new sports and clubs,” Daniel Villegas said.

“And grow up,” another boy added.

Opponents say kids who move up too quickly tend to grow up too fast. Voters recently elected a new school board member to reverse the move.

“The grades drop, the behaviors drop precipitously if you move a child out of elementary into middle school at the sixth grade level,” said board member Brian Butler.

Parents against the move said it was always iffy, so families could have downplayed their celebrations.

“It’s been known all year that any day the move can be reversed,” one man said.

Where do sixth graders fare better? That issue has been debated for years in districts nationwide. What’s not up for debate? The majority rules, so for now, the move is off.

Administrators said they are legally bound by the school board’s decision and will support students regardless of their building location.


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