JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Two existing Johnson City schools are transitioning this 2022-2023 school year to become middle schools housing 6th through 8th graders.
Before this change, Indian Trail Intermediate School served all Johnson City Schools 5th and 6th graders, while Liberty Bell School taught all 7th and 8th graders.
This year, the district has implemented an ‘exciting’ shakeup at both schools. Liberty Bell and Indian Trail will now both be middle schools beginning the first day of school, Wednesday, August 3.
It is a move Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett says will be great for both the students and the schools.
“It was really important for us as a school district to create space in our two middle schools,” said Barnett.
The change comes amid rapid growth in Johnson City. Barnett says it was necessary as schools were getting too crowded.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to have smaller numbers in our middles and for students to have that extra year of development in our elementary schools before moving on the middle school,” said Barnett.
Fifth graders will now spend one more year at their elementary schools before moving on to either Liberty Bell or Indian Trail for middle school.
At times over the years, Indian Trail and Liberty Bell were each housing well over a thousand students.
“We used every space that we had, we were max capacity,” said Indian Trail principal, Dr. James Jacobs.
Principals at both schools say this change will reduce their populations by several hundred students this year.
“We feel like we will be able to go deeper with our relationships in getting to know and working with families and we are very excited about that as well,” said Liberty Bell principal, Dr. Holly Flora.
Another benefit of the transition? It actually results in fewer transitions for kids.
Before, Johnson City Schools students had to make four school transitions: from elementary, to intermediate school at Indian Trail, to middle school at Liberty Bell and then to high school at Science Hill.
“One of the things I heard from parents multiple times, over and over throughout the years, it’s just too many transitions. And it is hard on the kids,” said Jacobs.
Dr. Flora agrees.
“Moving to a 6-8 format will allow for fewer transitions for the child, which is always better,” she said.
Between the elementary and middle schools both getting to have their students for an extra year, it is a benefit leaders say will impact both students and parents.
“How can we help these students grow, how can we challenge them academically? All of those things we can take care of because we have them for more time,” said Jacobs.
Dr. Barnett added since fifth graders will now be staying behind an extra year at elementary schools, the next bottleneck for overcrowding will likely be at the elementary schools.
The district continues to survey what changes need to be made; not taking the possibility of needing to build a new elementary school off the table.
Jacobs agrees, but adds that as Johnson City continues to see consistent population growth, at least for right now this middle school transition provides much needed relief.
“It gives us a lot of space and room for growth and expansion. So as Johnson City grows, we have more space for the kids,” said Jacobs.
Parents can use the city’s School Locator to find out where a child will attend middle school, but in general, each zone breaks down as follows:
Liberty Bell Middle School
- South Side
- Towne Acres
- North Side
Indian Trail Middle School
- Mountain View
- Lake Ridge
All students attend Science Hill High School for grades 9-12.