A single-story building with the words Federal Hocking Middle School displayed on the front.
Federal Hocking Middle School. [Theo Peck-Suzuki | WOUB/Report for America]

Fed Hock hopes new middle school helps boost student support and communication with parents

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STEWART, Ohio (WOUB/Report for America) — For the first time since the mid-2000s, Federal Hocking Local Schools will have an independent middle school with its own administration and bell schedule.

The change affects students in grades six through eight. Previously, students grade seven and up attended Federal Hocking High School, while sixth graders went to Amesville and Coolville elementary schools.

The building housing the school is the same as the one used before the middle and high schools merged. Over the roughly 15 years when it did not have a middle school, the district used that space for storage and conference rooms. It is still connected to the high school via a hallway.

The new middle school principal, Kirby Seeger, said the change benefits students by providing more structure throughout the day.

“It just allowed us to have a little bit slower pace of a day, rather than running on a high school schedule,” he explained.

Having a separate administration also means more attention and resources for students, as well as more frequent communication with parents — something Seeger emphasized was a priority going forward.

“We’re really, really pushing the engagement piece,” he said.

Erin Lucas, a parent at Fed Hock, said the change has been noticeable.

“From the moment we walked in for orientation, the whole atmosphere was different,” she said.

Lucas’ daughter, now in eighth grade, used to get lost walking the halls of Federal Hocking High School. This year, staff were on hand the first day to show students around and help them find their classes.

Lucas said the school felt safer and more welcoming as a result.

The restructure has also given Fed Hock a chance to improve its longstanding advisory program. First introduced by then-high school principal Dr. George Wood in the 1990s, advisory has become an integral part of the district’s curriculum.

A woman stands in front of a projector screen. The projector shows an image of a ball of yarn and instructions for a game.
Sixth grade English teacher Robin Hawk explains an activity at Donuts for Grownups. [Theo Peck-Suzuki | WOUB/Report for America]
“Advisory is your family at school,” said seventh grade language arts teacher Ann Cell. She described herself as “the school mom” of her advisees. “If there’s something going on with them, it’s my job to know that. If there’s something going on at home, hopefully I can be a part of figuring out what’s going on there and making a better connection with the school.”

The new middle school wants to make this process more visible to parents. To that end, Seeger and other staff members designed Donuts for Grownups, in which adults attended an advisory session with children (donuts were provided to all participants). Children whose parents weren’t available received a surrogate adult in their stead.

During the event, teachers led everyone through the kinds of activities they would use for an ordinary advising session. These included participants asking one another questions and then working as a group to silently untangle a web of yarn. A handful of parents also took the opportunity to check in with the teacher one on one.

Seeger said events like Donuts with Grownups are possible because of the restructuring and expressed hope that they would further improve communication among students, teachers and parents.

“One of our big focuses is making sure our parents are engaged,” he said. “They know that this is a building that is going to be transparent, that we want to communicate.”