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A new school year often means a big transition

Students and parents reflect on moving into middle school and high school.

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  • | 9:28 a.m. July 5, 2022
Alex Kitcher has a small crew of friends he plays video games with that will be joining him at Sarasota Polytechnical School. (Photo by Harry Sayer)
Alex Kitcher has a small crew of friends he plays video games with that will be joining him at Sarasota Polytechnical School. (Photo by Harry Sayer)
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School, at any time and age, can be an uncertain experience. 

Young children are already doing their best to learn and adapt, and each new grade can bring with it new challenges, fears and opportunities. 

That push and pull of life is exacerbated when the student moves up to a whole new ecosystem — going from elementary school to middle school and middle to high school. 

Local parents and children are grappling with that big transition as the new school year approaches. 

11-year-old Jace Bakert, a Lakeview Elementary School student who’s headed to Sarasota Middle School, is definitely feeling some of that anxiety. 

The young student has some head start in what to expect in that he spent many grades at Southside Elementary before making the move to Lakeview for the last three quarters of the his last elementary school year. 

“I didn’t think (my mom) would actually move me,” Bakert said. “I thought ‘What the heck?’”

The move between schools was easy enough, and Bakert has made friends over a shared love of assembling Lego figures and YouTube videos. But the idea of making a jump to middle school has been intimidating for Jace. 

The idea of having several additional classes throughout the day, and a locker of his own to boot, has been a lot to take in. He feels confident in math and science, but juggling it all at once is a different matter entirely. 

“I’m nervous about meeting new kids,” Bakert said. “And the new classes, I used to have like four subjects.

Jace Bakert recently finished his grade school years at Lakeview Elementary School.
Jace Bakert recently finished his grade school years at Lakeview Elementary School.

Jace is an only child and his mother Jess shares his nervousness about the big transition. Jess was a military child and was used to going to new schools and going with the flow, but like any mother she worries that her son will be OK. 

“We’ve talked about how it’ll be different but everyone is going into sixth grade from different elementary schools,” Jess Bakert said. “He might even get to see some of his friends from (Southside), we’ll find out who’s there.”

Bakert feels it might be a tough transition at first — simply having to manage several classes and managing your own time frame throughout the day will be a new challenge — but that her son will get used to the swing of things. 

“Elementary school and middle school are very different,” Jess Bakert said, “Last year he was with students who were 5, now he’ll be with students who are 13. It’s a big difference for him.”

She’s spoken with other parents with kids who have recently moved into middle school and gets the sense that the initial shock gives way to being comfortable with the situation. 

Bakert does has something of a plan when entering his middle school and trying to make new friends.

“I’m going to say hi (to people) a bunch of times,” Bakert said. “Eventually it should work out.”

13-year-old Alex Kitcher, on the other hand, feels somewhat more confident as he moves from middle school to high school when he joins Sarasota Polytechnical High School. 

His transition from elementary to middle was all within Sarasota Suncoast Academy, with students he’d already known and grown up with. That move was familiar, but heading to a brand new school offers plenty of opportunities.

Kitcher is aiming for a career in video game design and often plays multiplayer with friends. He had a small but close friend group at Sarasota Suncoast Academy and the group would often head to the library together.

To his relief, several are joining him at Sarasota Polytechnical School.

“It makes me feel good, knowing there are friends I know and can talk to (going in) instead of being a lonely outcast,” Kitcher said.

Kitcher’s mother Melissa grew up in Queens and walked to elementary school before making a big break moving to high school. She remembers losing touch with friends as she went on, so she’s happy that her son will hang onto his core of friends as they start their new chapter.

“These are kids he’s been in class with since kindergarten,” Melissa Kitcher said. “It’s going to be good for him.”

There’s some small amount of nerves going in, but Alex Kitcher is excited for what the future will hold.

 “I’ve been wanting to get ready and just jump into it,” Alex Kitcher said. 


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