FUSD fifth-graders who have wanted to get into Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy without having to attend a different school as sixth-graders, then apply to FALA as seventh-graders, will get their chance next year.

The school announced last week that it will add a sixth-grade class to its grades 7-12 roster in the fall of 2018.

Dean of Academy Deidre Crawley said FALA has been working on adding a sixth-grade class to the school since Flagstaff Unified School District dropped sixth grade from its elementary schools and added it to grades 6-8 middle schools.

 The result has been a "gap" year during which fifth-graders in FUSD have not been able to apply to enter FALA until the seventh grade. As a result, many FALA seventh-graders are attending their third school in three years.

The school is hoping to have a first sixth-grade class of at least 50 students. It will also be enrolling an entirely new class of seventh-graders, but for the last time as the new sixth graders move up. Current enrollment is about 320 students.

“We didn’t think it was fair to make students and parents wait a year and enroll in another school before they could apply to FALA,” Crawley said.

FALA has been a fixture in Flagstaff since it opened as one of the region’s first public charter schools in 1996. At first the school only taught high school students. In 2010, the school expanded to its current location and added seventh and eighth grades.

Crawley said demand for a sixth grade at FALA has been increasing over the last few years, with a number of parents and students asking when or if the school was going to add a sixth grade.

She added that the school already has most of the staff, faculty and physical space it needs for the new grade, so the cost to implement the new grade will be minimal.

FALA may have to hire one additional teacher and will have to rearrange some classes, she said. Administration has been talking with the middle school team of teachers and staff for several years about the addition of a sixth grade, so staff and faculty are prepared.

All sixth-graders will have access to the same beginning-level electives such as dance, music, theater, etc. that other grades do, Crawley said. However, the amount of elective classes that sixth-graders can take will be limited because the emphasis in FALA’s middle school grades is on core courses such as math, English, social studies, etc. Middle school students get more electives when they enter the eighth grade in preparation for their high school years.

Adding another middle school grade to the school will also be a boon to the high school students, Crawley said. The older students mentor the younger students, which creates a sense of camaraderie and community among the students. It also helps with the behavior of the older students because they know the younger students look up to them.

“We’re excited about it and think it will be a positive addition to the school,” she said.

More information on enrolling next year at FALA can be found on the school’s website at http://flagarts.com/.

The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.