Splitting Grades Needs Rethinking - Letter

The decision by the school committee to split up the grades was very disappointing. As a retired teacher (whose ongoing research keeps me current on educational issues, particularly those that are political in nature), I strongly object to taking this direction. Significantly, the first three grades have historically provided the foundation in the basics of reading, language arts and math and wherein very young children thrive in an atmosphere of stability, security, consistency, and this is achieved in their formation of “school families.” Such “families” consist of the environment, teaching staff, the formation and socialization of friendships and stable routine.

From experience, I predict that to remove children in that critical third year, forcing a total change for 7- and 8-year-olds into a new school, new classrooms, new expectations and routines, disruptions of longstanding friendships and relationships with teachers will result in a three- to six-month delay in re-establishing learning patterns and the resumption of the pace of learning. It is also a distinct probability that some children, unfortunately, for one reason or another, will not experience the same familiar attention, stability and security outside of school.

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I gratefully applaud and thank those members of the school committee who actually made their decision on the basis of what is best for the children and thoughtfully listened to the voices of those who put their trust in their ability to do so.

But I’m disappointed that one member’s rationalization of the need for reconfiguration seems based on the cost of repairs to the Wing School and declining school population and which would somehow “enrich curriculum and instruction and provide equal opportunity for all students”—a puzzling statement. Granted, a school in need of repairs, and no money to make them, is not safe space for children; thus closing the school and moving them to another place is common sense. In this instance , moving one group of children to another school is unfortunately necessary and their sense of “school family” needs to be protected to the fullest.

Another problem with the K2-3-6 model is staggered bus times for kids and parents, separating young siblings, making different leaving and arrival times at home. Another argument has been made that “if 200 3rd graders are in one school, 10 math teachers would be needed, but if they are divided between a K-6 model and are different numbers, it might require more teachers.”

To me, it all seems to boil down to money. And if we cannot find funds to repair the Wing School, want to avoid hiring new teachers, may need to add another bus or two in order to keep the K-6 model, which most parents seem to agree is their first choice, I would suggest that we should do whatever is necessary to accomplish this. If, in this dreadful economy, we can find money to finance the very expensive new STEM Academy, we ought to be able to find a little more and keep K-6. Or cut back on something not quite so necessary until times get better. The school committee must reconvene and rethink the reconfiguration, now, before moving forward with a plan which is NOT in the best interests of our children, teachers and taxpaying parents. Are any of the members who voted affirmatively willing to do so?

Patricia F. Stebbins
Easterly Drive
East Sandwich

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