By NICK GRABBE - Hampshire Gazette
Thursday, June 18, 2009
AMHERST - Now that the School Committee has decided to close Mark's Meadow School a year from now, the next challenges are how to help the children deal with the upheaval and what school they will attend in 2010.
Principal Nick Yaffe told the committee Thursday that he wants next year to be "a celebratory, meaningful time." He wants to find out what children are saying and feeling about their school closing, and then discern how to make it a positive transition, he said.
"We are moving together into uncharted waters," he said. "As far as I know, there is not a manual describing how to guide a school through a closing year."
Yaffe said that when children ask him about the closing, he responds that there's still a lot of time left for learning and having fun at Mark's Meadow.
"Rather than thinking of next year as one in which the closing of our school is looming over our heads like a foreboding cloud, I would like it to be a year of celebrating who we are as a community," he said.
He hopes that children, families and staff can think about revitalizing "the Mark's Meadow spirit," and next spring ask how it can be transferred to new schools.
The School Governance Council will coordinate the transition. This fall there will be new staff members at Mark's Meadow coming from the other three elementary schools who can serve as "bridge-builders," he said.
"We have started to brainstorm other ways, such as #buddy classrooms,' to connect and familiarize our students with the other schools," Yaffe said. "While there will inevitably be a sense of sadness and loss, this can also be a time of coming together to create a memorable year."
He urged anyone with ideas about how to handle the transition to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incoming Superintendent Alberto Rodriguez has experience in closing a school, said Maria Geryk, the interim superintendent.
The schools have hired DeJong-Healy of Dublin, Ohio to review a preliminary proposal for redrawing the elementary district lines and make recommendations. Their work is to be completed next week.
One of the goals of the redistricting is to equalize the percentage of students in each school who come from low-income households. Currently, Crocker Farm School has a much higher percentage than the others.
Other goals should include minimizing busing and keeping friends and neighborhoods together, said School Committee member Steve Rivkin.
Nick Grabbe can be reached at email@example.com.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.