February 22, 2010
The planning to consolidate Gateway’s elementary schools continues on a pace that should ensure that Chester and Littleville Elementary Schools are ready to welcome all Gateway elementary students for the 2010-2011 school year. As expected, this process will entail a great deal of work on the part of classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, maintenance staff, cafeteria staff and administrators. From teachers and paraprofessionals packing up classroom materials to be delivered to new classrooms, to preparing the closing buildings to be turned over to the their respective towns, there are a number of items that must be completed in a timely manner, with several steps needing to be completed in a particular sequence. As one can imagine, this process will consume much time on everyone’s part.
We have already completed several steps in the initial process including notifying the towns, setting plans in motion to end various contracted services, preliminarily assigning staff to buildings and specific classrooms, identifying what furniture and equipment will be moving to which building and setting up a time line to ensure things are done in an orderly fashion. This process will take a consistent effort on the part of many people over the next 6 months to ensure that classrooms are ready for students for the beginning of the school year. Similar to the end of every academic year, but executed in much more depth, the inventory of items, the closing of classrooms, and the packing up of materials so that custodial work can be accomplished will start before the end of the current school year. We anticipate closing elementary libraries about 2 weeks earlier than usual so that materials can be inventoried, moved, shelved and updated in the computer system. We also anticipate that other materials—especially those that are not directly used in classrooms or currently in use by students—will be moved as time permits. With a July 1 date for returning buildings to towns, it is not reasonable to expect that nothing will be done before the end of the school year. In fact, in any given year, teachers usually start packing up and storing items well before the end of the school year—after all, their work year ends as the students leave for summer vacation.
All five elementary schools are being impacted in some fashion. Each of the three schools being closed has already seen some furniture and equipment move out and this will likely accelerate as we head towards the end of the school year. Even Chester and Littleville staff who are not changing buildings may be moving classrooms, consolidating materials and preparing to end one school year and start another. As a transition tool, some schools are having students create memory books of their schools and complete other activities to prepare for the upcoming change. Remember that even students who are not moving will most likely have new teachers, new students in their buildings and classes, new lunch and recess schedules and many additional opportunities. I’ve talked with many students who are feeling very positive about the change, certainly a reflection of the attitudes of their teachers and especially of their parents or guardians. This seems to support the idea that children are both more accepting of change and adaptable than many adults give them credit for and we can also see the impact that parental attitudes have on a child’s outlook on these upcoming changes.
The Elementary Advisory Committee will be working to provide information to parents and the greater community regarding the process. The proposed budget, based on level state funding for education, provides many more opportunities for our students from preschool to high school seniors, while decreasing the overall budget cost from this year. The schools remaining open can easily house more elementary students than we have in the district and the rumor that we’re using closets for classrooms is interesting but not true (we did use one classroom at Littleville as a ‘literacy closet’ to store leveled reading materials, and that is being turned back into a standard classroom). Like many others in the district, I am saddened to see our smaller elementary schools close but am willing to work cooperatively to ensure that our students get a better education with additional opportunities while still being cognizant of the need to control costs. A failure to look positively towards the future, work together and stop laying blame for uncontrollable circumstances is a surefire way to make this transition difficult on everyone, especially our children.