Should Freshmen be Brought Into the High School?

I was made aware that there was a discussion occurring at the district level about the introduction of ninth-graders into high school buildings across the school district. As a student, I supposed it would be valuable and important that a discussion be started about this topic and how it would affect students across the board– both present and future. Although many students and administrators justifiably aren’t crazy about the idea of having an additional grade level (especially a younger one) added into the high school building, this is a valuable opportunity to explore.

When I was living outside of this district (and outside of the state), having freshmen at the school was how all of the high schools operated– not to say that we need to be the same as everyone else, but simply to say that this venture has already shown success on a very widespread level. I remember being asked if I was a high-schooler often during the time that I was in ninth grade while living in Utah, and I never had a concrete response. Because yes, I was already earning credits for graduation, but no, I would not get dropped off at the high school in the mornings and be welcomed at high school dances and events. It was always an awkward question to answer, but more than that, it was almost a question of identity. I didn’t feel like I truly belonged in either the category of high school or junior high, and that made it difficult for me to want to make connections in junior high that would just be severed the next year. It was a barrier in ninth grade that I had to combat. Not being at the high school my freshman year made everything, including making connections and friendships, more difficult.

On top of that, when I officially was moved into Mountain View High School as a sophomore, that transition was made even more difficult than I believe it would’ve been had I started at the school as a freshman. High school is an entirely different world than junior high in all areas– academically, socially, and emotionally. It was extremely difficult to get out of my figurative shell as a sophomore, and I didn’t really get into the groove of high school until midway through my junior year. But at that point, I only had a year and a half of my high school experience to really, truly be invested and enjoy it. If I were to have had that ninth grade year to work on opening up at the high school, I would have had an additional year to truly enjoy the experience rather than worrying about where I fit in and how being a high schooler actually worked. Looking back as a senior, having more time to adjust to high school would have been extremely beneficial for both my growth and my experiences in my sophomore and junior years. I know that I am not alone in this feeling– many of my friends and family have expressed similar thoughts and experiences.

The argument that the difference in maturity between freshmen and seniors is extremely valid, and would be difficult to navigate. It would come with its fair share of difficulties, trial and error, and learning stages. However, thinking about the difference in maturity between seventh and ninth graders also seems like a big jump in growth– at least comparable on the scale of freshman to senior. And I also believe that, on top of simple age and biological differences, the restriction of freshmen to the junior highs is stunting their growth in maturity. When given the opportunity to grow up a little bit, most people do. The placement of the ninth graders at the high school would improve the likelihood of increased maturity in the freshmen, and possibly shorten that maturity gap given time and effort. That is a possibility worth investing in.

On top of these, there are logistical, transportation, and familial reasons that this change could be extremely beneficial. And not only for the ninth grade year– but also for the discovery and the experience that follows that freshman year of high school. It certainly is a topic that needs to be discussed, because there are many valid arguments for both sides– but there is a reason it is called the freshman year of high school rather than the senior year of junior high. High school is short enough as is– let’s give these kids the opportunity to have as much and as positive of a high school experience as it is possible to give them. I believe that the long-term benefits will far outweigh any arguments of cost or inconvenience.