- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Nate Jones is preparing for a big transition this fall as he enters the sixth grade. He’ll have to maintain a locker, change classes and keep up with all the paperwork and books in each class.

Many new middle schoolers find the shift from the more nurturing environment of elementary school intimidating, a problem Dothan City Schools summer bridge program hopes to address.

“It’s exciting, but there’s some scary stuff,” Jones said.

About 400 Dothan City Schools students are participating in summer bridge programs held at elementary, middle and high schools throughout the city school system. The program helps acclimate rising kindergarteners, sixth graders and ninth graders to what they’ll experience as they start elementary, middle school or high school.

Establishing better transitions between grade levels has been identified as important to improving student achievement. Dothan’s summer bridge program lasts a week and provides students with information about school culture and academic expectations.

“It really helps them open up and understand what middle school is all about,” said Tami Ard, a Girard Middle School summer bridge instructor.

Jones has been attending Girard Middle School’s summer bridge program. At the program, Jones and other students learn how to organize binders and their lockers. They also move from class to class, just like they will when school begins in August.

Jones said he’s a little apprehensive about starting middle school and is concerned about fitting in as well as academic skills. He said the summer bridge program has given him a good preview about what middle school will be like.

Haden Hughes, also attending the summer bridge program, is more optimistic about starting middle school.

“It’s not what people say it is,” he said. “People say it’s going to be scary, but not for me. It’s going to be cool and pretty awesome.”

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Information from: The Dothan Eagle, https://www.dothaneagle.com

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