As I contemplate what the closure means for our students, community and, on a personal level, my friends who are immediately impacted by the school board’s recent decision, I return to my friend Noёl Janis-Norton’s words: “Your child’s education is far too important to leave up to the schools.” I came to know Noёl, a renowned child behavior expert, after seeking her counsel for our family.
Parent regularly question whether they are doing the right thing in how they’re raising their children. From discipline to nutrition to screen time to education, we reevaluate our decisions constantly.
In making their decision, board members of the acknowledged at a community meeting that Hill is closing not for the potential cost-savings but to centralize and expand the district’s alternative educational opportunities and to redraw district boundaries to make schools more equitable in terms of demographics.
And they’re moving quickly. The consolidation committee is scheduled to present their equity policies at the Feb. 1 school board meeting.
Many students are upset that they may be separated from their friends in their final year of middle school. Instead of getting a taste of being the big dogs on campus, they’ll have to adjust to a new and bigger environment and possibly have to make new friends. And then do it all again the following year when they enter high school.
I know they’ll survive, maybe even thrive. Human beings are terribly resilient creatures. But as a parent, I have my misgivings about creating two large middle schools. Granted my unease stems largely from my childhood memories of attending public schools in San Francisco: Everything from cliques to bullies were supersized in numbers.
As parents, what are your choices? At the school board meeting last week, Superintendent Jan La Torre-Derby said the district offers parents more educational choices than any other school district in Marin and Sonoma counties. During the transition, however, all K-12 intradistrict transfers are on hold for an unspecified time. The consolidation committee will be recommending freezing all transfers at the school board meeting next week.
Once that is lifted, parents who now have children in fourth grade or lower will have the choice of switching to one of two K-8 schools the district will have by the 2012-2013 school year. High school students have their pick among five school offerings, traditional and alternative.
Right now, though, parents of fifth graders and middle school students don’t have a lot of options.
“What can you do?” one parent said when I asked for her opinion. She went on to say that the kids would go where they go and that “we’ll be fine.”
There’s that resiliency gene again.
From what I heard at the school board meeting last week, the trustees didn’t make this decision in a bubble. One of the first to offer her recommendations after listening to all the panel members was trustee Debbie Butler, whose family also will be making the transition to .
But as you consider your options, I hope you’ll take time to reflect on Noёl’s advice as well. Schools should not be the sole provider of one’s education, but should be seen as a component of a rich and varied life of learning. The question that remains for me is whether our schools as an institution are supporting or undermining my efforts at home.