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By Katie Duell & Spencer Hurbis | Collaborative Reporters

A whole new class of younger students now walks the halls of Marshfield. In September, over 250 eighth graders joined MHS as Pirates, following reconfiguration decisions last spring. Bunker Hill Elementary School was closed, which created massive changes in remaining schools and moved eighth graders to the high school.

Marshfield Principal Greg Mulkey said the inflation of students was noticeable immediately, as the student population has been steadily decreasing over the past several years.

“I’ve been here for 22 years or so, but a while back the population of the school was much higher than it is today, even with the eighth graders added,” Mulkey said. “I was here the first day and I just thought, ‘Wow, it feels like the old days,’ in regards to the number of students.”

Though many were concerned about including eighth graders in the high school setting, the transition has not been as bad as they feared. Some eighth graders, like Breanna Wright, prefer Marshfield to Sunset Middle School, where she attended last year.

“I was surprised and nervous at first,” Wright said.  “It’s a lot different, but also much easier because it’s more open, and that makes it easy to get around.”

Eighth grade students, such as Hannah Delgado, are disappointed because instead of being the older class, as they would be at Sunset, the transfer to Marshfield makes them underdogs once again.

“It was sad and kind of tough because you go from being at the bottom of the food chain, back down to the bottom again,” Delgado said. “It was exciting to be in high school early though and I’m enjoying that.”

The increase in students has also affected the staff. According to science teacher Cathy Danielson, while some teachers were moved up to the high school to accommodate the class of 2016, not enough were transferred to teach all of the students. This prompted her to offer to teach an eighth grade science class.

Danielson enjoys teaching the eighth graders, though they are younger than the students she typically instructs in her other classes.

“I definitely enjoy teaching them,” Danielson said. “They are very enthusiastic about learning, and it has been fun for me to have a variety of curriculum to teach and such a wide range of students.”

Eighth grader Gavin Murdock said it has been hard for him and many of his friends to move into classes with high school teachers that are going to challenge them more.

“They are sometimes not as nice to us because they are used to older students,” Murdock said. “They expect much more of us here than back at Sunset.”

Those teachers who previously taught at Sunset Middle School are adjusting to a whole new environment and teaching new curriculum. Family and Consumer Science teacher Janet Saint taught social studies at Sunset for many years prior to transferring to MHS this year and now teaches students in all grade levels.

“I’m just used to how everything is done over there [Sunset], whereas here I’m a new person and still trying to figure out how everything is done,” Saint said. “But at the same time, I like being here and I could be at either place and be happy.”

English teacher Laurie Major also transferred from Sunset to MHS. Certified to teach both middle school and high school students, she is teaching English 10 along with her eighth grade Language Arts classes and poetry elective class.

While Major said she would be content at either school, she said they are vastly different.

“It’s nearly impossible to compare the two,” Major said. “They are two very good but unalike schools, apples and oranges. They’re both fruit, but they’re different.”

Eighth grader Rylee Trendell said that being at Marshfield now puts them a step ahead of all of the older students at MHS academically.

“I think it was appropriate to put us here,” Trendell said. “It gave us an extra year to get ready for high school, a pre-freshmen year.”

Other schools in the community have been affected by the realignment as well. Sunset Middle School is now home to fourth through seventh grade.

Sunset Principal Dale Inskeep said that although the eighth graders may be stressed about being in high school early and high school students may not see them as healthy additions to the school, time is needed to get used to such an adjustment.

“I think it’s important to look for the positives that come out of this,” Inskeep said. “Anything that’s new always takes a little bit of time, optimism, and belief that it will all work out for the better in the end.”