The Merrill Minute

February 28, 2020

Student Learning in 2020-2021

Greetings, Merrill Families,

We have been hard at work preparing for the 2020-2021 school year. We expect to continue to see an increase in student enrollment at Merrill and are drafting a master schedule that will meet the varied needs of all of our students, keep class sizes under 30, and allow our students to have an intentional and meaningful International Baccalaureate experience that prepares them not only for high school, but also to be active citizens in our community today.

Next year we will move from a 7-period day to a 6-period day where students will experience and engage in the courses listed below. Each period will be approximately 56 minutes in length, an increase of approximately 10 instructional minutes per class, per day.

  1. Language and Literature
  2. Math
  3. Science
  4. Individuals and Societies
  5. A/B Schedule - Music/PE and Health
  6. A/B Schedule - Spanish/Wheel Classes (Art, Business)

We believe these changes will have many benefits. The move to a 6-period day reduces the number of transitions throughout the day, increases instructional minutes for each period, and results in an average class size of approximately 28 students in both core academic courses (ELA, Math, Science, Global Studies) and wheel courses (PE, Health, Art, Music, and Business).

Side note: Current class size in wheel courses exceeds 35. Current class size in 7th and 8th grade core courses is anywhere from 29-35.

In response to feedback from students and families regarding the crowded cafeteria, we will be hosting two, 30 minute lunch periods per grade level to allow for a more relaxed, less congested cafeteria. To make this work, half of the students in each grade level will be in Mustang Minutes while the other half will be at lunch. Along with this, we have been piloting deliberate, student intervention/extension time during Mustang Minutes and will continue to build off of this pilot next year.

This is being communicated now so that you are aware of some behind the scenes work that goes on well before the start of the next school year. Having said that, please know that my focus is on today and how we can better serve your student when he or she walks through our doors tomorrow. Thank you for your partnership and continued support as we prepare students to create a better and more peaceful world.

Yours in planning for the future,


Kathryn Panek


Merrill Middle School

Merrill Parents Night Out

Saturday, March 28th, 6:30-9pm

301 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, IA

The Merrill PTA invites you to join parents and teachers for an adults only evening of fun and community… all to help support our school!

Parents Night Out is a great chance to mingle with other Merrill parents and staff in a fun, kid-free environment (other adult family, friends and neighbors are welcome with tickets). Bid on special Parents Night Out packages and raffle prizes. Entertainment provided by the Merrill Jazz Band. Heavy hors d’oeuvres, cash bar.

3 ways to purchase tickets:

  • $25 advance tickets paid at the main office (provide your name & email with payment)
  • $28 advance tickets paid through Consider donating a ticket so a teacher can attend for free!
  • $30 at the door

Help us reach our $5,000 fundraising goal! Any amount is appreciated. If you can’t attend, please consider:

RSVPs are enabled for this event.

Mustang TV News - January 30, 2020

Merrill Spring Conferences

Tuesday, March 24th, 4-7:30pm

5301 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, IA

Spring conferences at Merrill will be held on March 24 from 4:00-7:30. In addition, some families will be invited to meet with teachers for more targeted conferences the evening of March 31. Our purpose in this conference plan is to have the most meaningful conferences possible for all students and families.

While conferences are scheduled for March 24, please know that we want to partner with families at ALL times throughout the year to be sure that we are working together to meet the needs of our students. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out, and we promise to do the same.

RSVPs are enabled for this event.

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Merrill GSA Works to Create a Welcoming Environment

Gay-Straight Alliances, or GSAs, are student-led organizations that work to create safe and supportive environments in schools. Several DMPS secondary schools have GSAs, a way for LGBTQ students and their allies to work on raising awareness and support.

At Merrill Middle School, students literally took matters into their own hands as they picked up paint brushes to create signs of support. Gathering in the music room after school, several students worked on a banner to be displayed while others painted smaller “safe space” signs available for teachers.

Adam Severson is one of the teachers who works with the group, and explained the idea came about as students discussed how they wanted to kick off second semester.

“Many of our students are very artistically inclined and wanted to do something that culminated in showing something that shares their pride of being who they are with others who may not always be as accepting,” he noted.

Merrill’s vocal music teacher Courtney Copic is the group’s lead faculty sponsor and art teacher Shannon Anders provided support for the GSA’s most recent creations.

The 30 members of Merrill’s GSA meet a few times each month to work on school projects, and several will be participating in the Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth later this spring.

Volunteer Opportunities

Mustang Minutes: We are looking for volunteers to help us support our students in both their academic and social/emotional success! We would love to have you join us during Mustang Minutes on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays (8:30-9:00) to support students in need of additional help in reading and math, or to co-facilitate a club/activity during Mustang Minutes on Wednesdays (8:30-9:00).

Lunch Hour: We are looking for volunteers to keep the cafeteria and playground a friendly and welcoming place for students. Parents/community members are invited to stand in the hallway near the cafeteria or in the cafeteria and converse with students, hand out high-fives, and help direct students outside for recess or back into the cafeteria for lunch. You are always welcome! Just stop by for 6th Grade Lunch (11:30-12:00), 7th Grade Lunch (12:20-12:50), or 8th Grade Lunch (1:15-1:45).

Thank you!

One Run - Saturday, April 25

Lace up your shoes, put on your navy and white, and hit the streets of Des Moines in support of Merrill Middle School! OneRun is a district-wide fundraising event for the Des Moines Public Schools Foundation, in support of K-8 schools at DMPS...and it is free! This two-mile fun run/fundraiser is set for Saturday, April 25 and will begin and end near the Des Moines Botanical Center.

Registration will be paid by corporate sponsors directly to the schools. Each participant may designate one school. The more participants, the more money to our school, so invite your family and neighbors to register! Please be sure to designate Merrill Middle School as your home school when registering! Click here to learn more about the event and to register online.

State Science Fair Qualifiers

Mark your calendars now for the State Science Fair on Friday, March 27 from 8:30 AM - 9:00 PM at Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University. Go Mustangs!

6th Graders: Ronan M., Adeline S., Isaiah K., Annie A., Henry T., Helen H., Penn V., Paige B., Molly S.

7th Graders: Harper E., Will P., Alicia R., Isabel D., Ellery C., Julianna C., Addison S., Eme S., Isabelle H., Joe S., and Logan C.

8th Graders: Marlo B., Avery H., Sophia M., Ruby P., Mari T., Maia K.

He's Got Talent!

Congrats to Lars O. who played the lead role as "The Boy" in The Boy at the Edge of Everything. The show ran from Friday, Feb 14 - Feb 23 at the Stoner Theater. Way to go, Lars!
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DMPS Board Goals

  • Student Expectation Goal 1: The percent of all third grade students on track in reading will increase from 52% to 72% by June 2023, as measured by FAST.
  • Student Expectation Goal 2: The percent of black male third grade students on track in reading will increase from 35% to 72% by June 2023, as measured by FAST.
  • Student Expectation Goal 3: The percent of black male students completing Algebra I with a B or higher by the end of grade 9 will increase from 17% to 35% by August 2023.

Click here to learn more about our progress.

Merrill Middle School Goals

  • Student Expectation Goal 1: The percent of black male 6th – 8th grade students on track in reading (exceeding at-risk cut point 30th%ile) will increase from 53% to 75% by Spring 2023, as measured by NWEA MAP.
  • Student Expectation Goal 2: The percent of black male 6th – 8th grade students on track for college & career readiness in math will increase from 12% to 29% by Spring 2023, as measured by NWEA MAP.
  • Student Expectation Goal 3: The percent of 6th – 8th students with positive results will increase from 34% to 75% by spring 2023, as measured by the Conditions for Learning Survey.

Upcoming Dates

March 16th -25th: Spring Break for Students

March 24th: Conferences from 4:00-7:30

March 28th: Merrill Parents Night Out 6:30-9:00

March 31st: 7th Grade ISASP Testing

April 2nd and 3rd: 6th Grade ISASP Testing

April 7th and 8th: 8th Grade ISASP Testing