Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'd Like Your Opinion

My friend, Rebecca Taggart, is on a mission. And I'm helping out. She'd like to see if our local elementary schools can go back to a K-5 format.

I'm posting a copy of her letter below. (I've edited out the specific names of the elementary schools for privacy/security reasons.) I also have a hard copy of the letter that I'm getting signatures on. So here's the deal . . . If you're from my neck of the woods, let me know your thoughts on this issue. If you agree with Rebecca and me, I'll drop by and get your signature. She'll be turning the signatures in to Principal Gary Thomas who will spearhead the discussion with the school district.

Here's Rebecca's letter. My own personal specific thoughts will be posted below it.

We, the undersigned, are in favor of returning to the K-5 configuration at our local elementary schools for the following reasons:

1. Every year between 80 – 90% of a child’s classmates change. This means two or three students from a class will be together the following year. This happens year after year after year for a child’s entire grade school experience. Emotionally and socially it’s almost like moving to a new school every year! This lack of social continuity has been one of the unintended consequences of our present division of grades. If students attended all six grades in one school, there would be half the number of classrooms per grade level. This would mean more peer continuity.

2. Students move to a new school every three years. When a child moves from one school to the other, not only are classmates new (again), but also the principal, secretaries, lunch workers, custodians, librarians and other support staff. This constantly changing environment does not foster stable relationships, feelings of community, or a sense of well-being.

3. Students would spend less time on buses with the K-5 configuration. Buses would not be stopping at both schools for loading and unloading, and more students would be able to walk to school.

4. Siblings would attend the same school. This would not only be more convenient, but would also foster better partnerships between families and school personnel.

Some parents may be concerned about bullying. Well-managed schools have scheduled, supervised recess periods that accommodate different grade levels. Bullying most frequently takes place on buses. A K-5 configuration would reduce bullying by reducing busing.

A K-5 configuration would foster a more stable environment for our children by providing more continuity and reducing time spent on the bus. We would appreciate your consideration regarding this matter.


Remember when I got fed up with my daughter's elementary school making the kids stand outside in lines until 9:05 AM? (Click this sentence for a refresher.) Having our local schools on a K-5 configuration would solve her school's early bussing headaches.

My oldest daughter began second grade in a class where she didn't know any of the other students. The teacher was wonderful, the other students were friendly, and Loula Belle is my most outgoing child. But the situation gave her chronic stomach aches all year. We had her tested for lead poisoning. (We were living in an old rental home at the time.) I took her to the doctor. Nothing turned up. Looking back, I believe the problem was anxiety caused by a lack of friends in her school class.

Rebecca discovered that the K-5 format would eliminate the need for three school buses, saving time and money. I also learned that the third grade will have eight classes next year. Eight classes! The format would also simplify PTA membership (by the way, our schools are the only elementary schools in the state that have two seperate PTA boards for split schools), back-to-school nights, and Parent/Teacher conferences. I'm all for simplicity!

Sure, we'll miss meeting some of the parents and students that currently attend our elementary schools. But that won't last forever, we'll run into them when our children go to middle school. And by then our children will be more mature and ready for not only a new school, but the opportunity to make new friends.

I say lets give our kids the school configuration that is healthiest for them. In my mind that's the K-5 format.

What do you think? If you'd like to sign Rebecca's letter, write "sign me up" somewhere in your comments. And if you've got your own ideas, that's great too. Let us know how you feel.


Rebecca Talley said...

WE have K-5 at our school, and I'd like to see it go to K-6. I don't like sending sixth graders to middle school. I'm not familiar with your configuation, but I agree that elementary-aged kids should stay together because continuity at this age is important.

Good luck! And good for you guys getting involved and trying to make a positive change for your school.

Suko said...

I agree, the longer the kids stay together at one school, the better. Hopefully, the principal stays for more than a couple of years, too.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I'm so confused--what IS the current configuration?

I have to say, however, that the middle school/freshmen center configuration in Cache County (which began rather inadvertently as a building issue) is, from a management standpoint, brilliant. Sixth and Seventh graders are very much alike, just as 8th and 9th graders are. I've taught at two schools with a traditional middle school configuration and I think that 6th and 8th graders should never be in the same school. I even favor a 5-7 model before 6-8. Personally, I went to junior high and most of my 7th grade friends (barely 12) had ninth grade boyfriends (nearly 15). Scary.

There are a few experimental schools here in Oregon that are actually K-8. I haven't heard much about how they are working, though I'm generally against any arrangement that puts 9th graders in high school.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Oops--just re-read my comment. No help at all. Sorry.

Linda said...

Mary called me and we've already talked about this. Personally, I like the K-2 and 3-5 arrangement. I think it is a very safe feeling for kindergarteners and 1st graders to feel like there aren't any "big" scary kids at school. I remember being in those grades and there were some really scary 5th graders roaming the playgrounds and playfields that we spent most of our recess trying to avoid. They can be intimidating even if there are staff on the playground. There is a huge difference in the innocence of kindergarteners and 5th graders. I will not be joining the cause, but if you feel strongly about the cause I think it's great that you fight for it. I'd be more interested in putting my efforts into trying to get a junior high closer than 20 minutes away.

Christie said...

Thanks for leaving comments, ladies. And thanks, especially, to Linda for giving her alternate view. It's great to know how much moms want what is best for their kids!

Allie's Antics said...

This is a challenge because there are positive and negative points. I believe change is good for kids. Going to school with the same kids year after year, in the same school, may be positive, but it could also be negative. Such things as bullying, and labeling may be harder to disassociate from. Fewer teacher options can be positive, or negative. I like having more choice. Sorry, I'm not much help. I would definitely join a band-wagon to campaign for a closer freshman center!

Flashlight Girl said...

In our district we enjoy K-6 at our elementary school. The different grades have different recess times and play areas so the older and younger grades don't mixed during those times. Overall, it has worked really well for my children. Each grade has their own hall with approximately 4 classes of each grade. That seems like a lot to me. Any more would just be so intimidating as a child. Today my kids came home with their class assignments for next fall. Even though we've attending this school for 3 full years, there are still children they don't know very well. If they have a couple of "friends" in their class I'm pleased. If I'm not in your district, I'm not sure my opinion counts for much in your survey, however, if it will, sign me up. :)