Front of the Bus: Junior high students using high school courses for acceleration, opening later opportunities

As the buses pull up to Peet Junior High, there is a screech while they come to a halt in front of the crosswalk. While most kids are in the middle of class, freshmen Efupom Fang and Klaertje Hesselink are among several other kids headed up from a junior high on their way to the high school. 

Both students go up for fourth hour and spend the rest of the day at the high school. While Fang and Hesselink are technically Peet Junior High students, they spend more than half of their day at a different school. 

Fang comes up to the high school for honors biology, honors English 10, French 1 and honors geometry. She said that coming up for advanced classes has been mostly beneficial for her. “It’s nice to have a challenge that brings something new and exciting to my schedule. Most of my classes aren’t that hard,” Fang said. 

Fellow freshman Hesselink agreed. “I’m mostly taking these classes so that I can get ahead and eventually take more advanced classes,” Hesselink said.

High school counselor Susan Lagan said that she sees a good number of junior high students opting for high school classes. 

“Most of the junior high students we see here are for acceleration. There are a lot in math and science, sometimes English and world languages as well. A lot of kids that finish math or science early at the high school have the option to take more advanced classes at UNI”, Langan said. 

An NYU study found that 49 percent of high schoolers felt “greatly stressed on a daily basis.” With the added pressure of advanced classes, many students feel pressure to not only succeed, but defy expectations from teachers and parents. 

“While I feel a lot of pressure from people pushing to take these classes, the most pressure I feel is from myself to get the best grades possible, and I think that’s something that l will probably continue throughout most of high school,” Fang said.

Hesselink said that she is focused on the future, and that makes it easier to work toward her goal. “I want to get ahead and not only challenge myself, but to push for a better learning experience. Ultimately, I know that these classes will take me to more accelerated classes,” she said. 

With ninth graders being separated from the rest of the high school students, Langan agreed that there is added stress by taking these more advanced classes.  “It’s definitely a choice, but it does have added stress for freshmen just due to the driving back between schools. That can be tough on teachers too, with having students missing their first and last 10 minutes of class,” Langan said. 

Fang said that the sacrifice is worth the ultimate reward. “Finding a balance between pushing yourself and just being a kid can be hard, but I think going past your limits and becoming your best self is something is worth any price.”

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