Monday, August 18, 2008

Back to School!

Well, the girls started their new school last Thursday. Initially, I worried about the lower test scores I saw on the state of Kansas report card website. But, Chris talked to one of his friends whose son either went there or is still going there and he said they were great with his son, who has a learning disability. I was also impressed at enrollment when they handed me a piece of paper to fill out that said at the top, "Here's my child--Handle with care." It had places to check off different character traits and their academic strengths and weaknesses. Then there were blanks to fill in additional information about your child that you would like the teacher to know. That was nice because there were a lot of things I wanted the teachers to be aware of. However, when I met their teachers, I got the impression that they maybe hadn't read these forms yet because they didn't seem to be previously aware of my concerns. Anyways, they had porch visits Tuesday where some of the staff went around and met with the kids and brought them an invitation to the open house and some gum and a pencil. I thought that was a neat idea. Then they had an open house/ice cream social on Wednesday. We were able to meet the teachers then and see their rooms. I felt so sorry for my girls because this school is at least double the size of their old one. Their old school had 14 classes--this one has 26 classes. There are over 600 students. I walked them all around the school several times so they could become familiar with it. I got a really good impression of Arrena's teacher. Kimmy's teacher seemed nice, but I didn't get as strong a vibe from her. Arrena says it's okay, but she is distressed over the playground situation. There are two sets of equipment--one looks really nice, the other pretty plain. She says the younger kids play on the plain equipment and the big kids play on the good stuff. I asked her if it was a rule for them to separate and she said that no one told her it was, that was just the way it worked. She wanted to go to the good equipment, but no one her age would go over there. Kimmy, who loves school, came home Thursday and Friday saying she didn't like the school and it was the worst day of school ever. I have to concur with her proclamation of Friday--I am a little ticked about that fiasco myself. At their old school, at least the younger grades (not sure about the older grades) had bathrooms in their classrooms--at that age, they have to go frequently and urgently. Well, not at this school. They have to go down the hall to use the bathroom. Kimmy had gone to the bathroom and when she came back, her class was gone. Imagine my little bitty 6-year old Kimmy standing in this huge school with no idea where to go or what to do. She said she found another teacher and asked if she knew where her class went. She said she looked all over the school and finally found them outside having a fire drill! I said, "What did your teacher say?" Kimmy said, "She said, 'Oh, Kimmy, I'm so sorry I forgot about you!'" This really bothers me. What if there had been a real fire? I understand that this is only the second day of school and she may not be familiar with all the students yet, but if you are having a fire drill, number one, shouldn't ALL the children be instructed on what to do? Number two, don't you have a class list or a head count to make sure they all get out? Don't you notice that you have one vacant desk? One missing hall pass? It's not very reassuring that you can forget a student during a controlled drill--what happens during the chaos of a real emergency? If I trust my daughter to you for seven hours a day, I need to know that she will be safe and looked after. Maybe I am overreacting, but I'd rather overreact than underreact and have something happen to my child. I told this to Kimmy's friend's mom and she said that would upset her too and she'd be contacting the teacher. I emailed the teacher over the weekend to let her know that this concerns me. I'm really not sure in what way she can respond to reassure me. And Kimmy and I talked about what she should do in case there was a real fire or a tornado while she is in the bathroom or elsewhere in the building by herself. Apparently I have to trust her to take care of herself! This does not inspire confidence! I mean, I can't imagine that the teacher can go running around the school looking for stray children with her class in tow during a fire drill or a real fire, but the children should be instructed as to what to do if there is a fire/tornado/etc. drill when they are away from their classroom. And after this, I briefly spoke to an old friend whose kids went to this school for a time. She said it was a good school, but something happened last year to make her take them out and put them in the school system that we just came out of. I didn't get to talk to her further to find out what the concern was, but I gave her my phone number so hopefully I can speak to her further and see if it was just a personal thing or if there is something I should be aware of. Hopefully this week will be better, but so far they are plotting to get back to their old school next year.

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