Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Too many kiddos can really strain a school. It means overcrowded hallways, teachers working one-on-one with kids in every nook and cranny, lunch starting at 10:15 am and lasting past 1:00 pm, long waits for bathrooms (for students and teachers), and trailers taking over every flat spot of land. Special education and ESOL teachers, literacy and math coaches, and other specialists share offices in trailers or storage closets.  That's been our reality for a number of years.

This year a new school opened. Sixteen of our darlings headed over to that brand new school. About two hundred others were redistricted to another school nearby. Losing sixteen wouldn't be noticeable. Losing two hundred definitely is.

We expected to notice a difference this year. Quieter hallways, shorter waits for a bathroom, less chaos with fewer classes on the playground - that sort of thing. That has all come true.

We've also found some other, less obvious, but significant changes. The two hundred students who no longer attend our school all live in one apartment complex. It's not a great place to live in many ways. There are adults, mostly male, standing around outside at all hours, smoking, drinking. Some are waiting/hoping for day labor work. Others are just there. A ton of kids live there but are rarely seen. Parents don't let them play outside because they don't believe it is safe. It is right on an access road for a very busy road, but I would guess that's not the main concern. Many apartments hold multiple families. These students were, in many ways, our neediest students. 

Now that they are gone we are finding a different atmosphere in our building, our Parent Center and classrooms.

Parents who come in still have questions and need help. We still provide clothes, shoes, and winter coats to students. We still translate for parents at meetings and parent coffees. So much has not changed. 

At the same time, so much has. I wrote about this before without really understanding what I was seeing and thinking. Parent-teacher conferences really made it hit home for me. I had two no-shows out of fifteen students. That's an astoundingly great rate of participation for our families. One of my two no-shows is a little boy who lives in that same apartment complex. His brother is a fifth grader (our last grade) so they had the option to remain here this year. Other teachers were saying they've never had such high attendance rates at parent-teacher conferences. 

Many of our students are still living in poverty. Many are still learning English. Yet they seem to come from families with a better skill set for school and society.

Many of us have been discussing these changes, in hushed voices tinged with shame. We feel guilty because our lives seem to be easier now, our school calmer. But we worry. How are those kiddos doing? The school they attend now has no Parent Center, no parent liaisons to translate or coordinate with families. They cannot walk to their new school. Are they getting any support?

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