Sunday, January 22, 2012

Outside factors

When I first started working at the think tank we had a little more than 500 students. It was easy to find parking in our massive parking lot. There were even classrooms used as offices or conference rooms, leaving them empty most of the time. Over time (but not that much time, I'm not that old), this has changed. We have classrooms in trailers and we keep adding trailers, or sets of trailers. We have such a large staff that it is impossible to find parking if you get to school late. Our classes are maxed out and it's hard for classrooms to find time to use the bathroom- as we added trailers, teachers and kids we didn't get to add new bathrooms. Our cafeteria is overcrowded and our poor pe, music and art teachers have so many classes to teach that they barely get a break. We are literally bursting at the seams.
To help with our over crowding the district is opening a new school and re-districting our neighborhoods. We should lose around 200 plus students, which might sound like a lot but all things considering isn't actually going to reduce our numbers by that much.

We all know we have to lose students. We look forward to the hallways being less crowded, teachers being less stressed and for kids to actually be able to have time to go to the bathroom. But reality is slowly setting in- losing students means actually losing real students, not numbers. Kids we love. Families we've worked for years.

They drew the boundaries so that our poorest neighborhood will go to another school. A school that is not walking distance from the neighborhood, for a neighborhood where most families do not drive.

Our school worked hard for years to bring these families into our school. We understood the importance of having these parents be partners with us in their children's education and we worked hard to make it happen. It was essential to bring these parents in, teach them about the American school system, and help them understand how they can support their children. We spent years building trust between these families. We know these children will have a chance because their parents are on their side and involved.

And now they have to leave us, for a school they can't access. This means they won't be able to come to parent teacher conferences. They won't be able to pick up their sick children from the clinic. They won't come to after school activities and take advantage of school programs.
What's worse is that to the school it will look like these families just don't care. Teachers will get frustrated and the relationship between school and home will start to crumble.

It's beyond frustrating. We know our school is too big- it has to shrink. And to shrink we have to lose some of the students we love. But to make our school smaller means taking the neighborhood that needs us the most. What will happen to those kids? It is such a reminder of all the factors that play a role in a child's success in education besides what happens directly in the classroom.

I hope the transition goes well. I hope the parents find a way to get to the school easily. I hope the relationships we've built transfer over to the new school.


Jill said...

That is incredibly frustrating! I hope that the students' future school will be as understanding as yours has been for them. It sounds like your school is a place where I'd like to teach! Closed-mindedness is too often the norm.

Marvelous Multiagers!

jwg said...

Typical! Are any of the staff of your school going to the new one? I would think some familiar faces would help the transition.