DES MOINES, Iowa — Lincoln High School is going to feel a lot different for students next school year. Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) announced the main high school building will hold all grades 9th-12th, and their freshmen center, RAILS Academy, will close down.
“This has been a conversation that we’ve actually been having at the district level and with building level leaders for the past several years,” Lincoln High School Principal Paul Williamson said.
Williamson says there are many factors driving the DMPS decision to close RAILS Academy.
“When you have a 9th grade building, you would assume that there are some advantages in regards to academic performance, lower student discipline issues, better attendance rates, different things like that,” Williamson said. “What we’ve learned over the last couple of years is we are really not benefiting from having students in separate buildings, in regards to those measurements.”
The final decision to move freshmen into the main building is coming down after the district’s budget struggle.
“We are going to reduce costs such as shuttle services. We run buses in between both buildings every day. We run a kitchen staff at both buildings every day,” Williamson said.
Over 600 students attend RAILS Academy this year. Next year, they will be sophomores at the main building. Joining them, will be another estimated 600 freshmen all packing in to Lincoln High School.
The students say that could make things interesting.
“Ugh, I think it’s going to be crowded,” Lincoln junior Mia Cooper said.
“I’m not exactly fond of the idea of it because it’s going to be even more crowded,” Lincoln junior Anastasia Toben said.
“I don’t really like it. I feel like the school will be too packed full and a lot of the freshmen are immature. I know I used to be one of them, but they get on my nerves,” Lincoln sophomore Thomas Anderson said.
Williamson recognizes the challenges with this consolidation. They are already working with the city to change Bell Avenue near the school to a one-way to help with traffic outside and are finding ways to fix things on the inside.
“Can we establish traffic patterns within the building to make the exchange in the hallways between classes a little smoother?” Williamson said.
Now Lincoln will join the rest of the district and many schools around the metro having an all comprehensive high school. Valley is one of the few that still have a 9th grade center.
“I think it’s going to cause a lot of problems,” Cooper said. “I think it’s going to be different, but I think we’re going to be able to function because Roosevelt, North, Hoover, and East can all function. We should be able to function.”
Williamson says while he does have to adjust the staffing plan, they will not lose staff. The district plans to keep the lot, as Lincoln will still utilize the sporting complexes there.