New London — The Williams School announced Wednesday that it will add sixth grade to its academic program in the 2014-15 school year.
Sixth grade has been found through demographic data to be a more natural entry point to the middle school level, Head of School Mark Fader said. By adding a sixth-grade class, students wouldn't have to make the transition from elementary to middle school before coming to Williams for seventh grade, he said.
In 2014, the new academic program will begin with about 20 students split into two groups of 10, Fader said.
Last month, the Board of Trustees adopted a five-year strategic plan that includes adding the lower-grade level — an idea that the board first explored in 1990 and again in 2000, according to a press release.
The private school, which is located on the Connecticut College campus, currently offers seventh through 12th grade and serves 240 students from 42 towns around the region. Fader said the hiring of new staff for the new sixth-grade class has yet to be determined and is dependent upon the needs of the incoming class.
An intensive language program where sixth-graders will engage in a year of classical and modern language exposure is also slated for the 2014-15 school year. Students will get a half-year of Spanish language instruction and a half-year of Latin instruction.
"The Williams School has one of the most comprehensive enrichment programs available in the area," according to Jane Hannon, head of the middle school and co-chairman of the Sixth Grade Committee. "Students will engage in classes in drama, dance, art, music, debate and citizenship. The Enrichment program takes students out of their comfort zone, but in a safe and supportive environment. ... These classes, especially in the arts, are quite often not available in our area public schools."
Students at the middle school level at Williams also have access to an arts and athletics program that is typically reserved for high school students.
"If parents are interested in their child joining us in sixth grade, but their child will be in fifth-grade next school year, they can start calling now," Fader said.