Families in South Natomas may have a new middle school as early as 2014.
The Natomas Unified School District announced last month that it plans to create a traditional middle school on the Natomas High School campus, which would allow students who live in the neighborhood to attend class near their homes.
Many students there currently travel to North Natomas for middle school, officials said.
"I think it's a good idea," said Ryan Herche, a Natomas school board member. "I think there's a huge demand in South Natomas for a middle school."
The only middle school in South Natomas is Leroy Greene Academy, which reopened last August as a charter school with an application process. The district shut its traditional predecessor, Leroy Greene Middle School, at the end of 2009-10.
Students who want to attend a non-charter public middle school must cross the freeway and travel about four miles north to Natomas Middle School. Another option is Heron School, a K-8 campus also about four miles from South Natomas.
The proposed middle school, which has yet to be named, would be housed in existing buildings at the high school so the district would not have to pay for the construction of a new campus, said Chris Evans, superintendent of the Natomas district.
The exact configuration of the school hasn't been decided yet, but the two campuses might share some resources, Evans said.
"They're all our students, and they would be sharing facilities and space much like the other students do," he said.
Herche said students could share Natomas High School's gymnasium and library, for example.
The Natomas Teachers Association supports creating a new traditional middle school in North Natomas. Children from South Natomas who attend Natomas Middle School take bus rides that can last for up to an hour, said Kristen Rocha, the association president.
"Students in South Natomas need to have a neighborhood school that they have proximity to," Rocha said.
Teachers at Leroy Greene Academy so far have chosen not to join the Natomas teachers union, Rocha said.
The new middle school would offer courses that prepare students for Advanced Placement classes, as well as college and career tracks, that line up with offerings at Natomas High School.
It could include a doctor's academy that prepares students for the biological sciences.
The new school would help give students a clear track in South Natomas from elementary school to high school, Evans said.
It also would help the district prepare for additional students if the flood-risk moratorium on building in Natomas is lifted and the district grows.
"When the moratorium gets lifted, we have all of these great options to provide our kids and the growth that will follow," Evans said.
The proposed campus also would help provide a steady supply of students for Natomas High School, which has seen declining enrollment in the last few years, said Ben Glidewell, a chemistry teacher at the school. He said it was a "cause for concern."
Glidewell, the school's baseball coach, is also looking forward to having a potential pipeline of student-athletes that could come from the middle school.
It remains to be seen how the district would organize the two schools, but Glidewell believes it can be done with some creativity, he said.
"It's just a matter of good bell scheduling," he said.
Call The Bee's Benjamin Mullin, (916) 321-1034.