Big changes, but few high hurdles|[10/16/05]
Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005
With the first nine weeks and two whirlwind months of school nearly behind them, officials with the Vicksburg Warren School District said everything is running smoothly.
The 9,300-student district has faced major changes and unforeseen events this school year, including returning to community schools for the first time in six years, switching from block four-period class days back to seven-period days and losing a week, but gaining several hundred displaced students during Hurricane Katrina.
”This community has dealt with major changes and issues for the first time, and everyone has worked together very well,“ said Superintendent James Price.
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Price said the only glitch was the learning curve with bus routes during the first week of school, but the district has prepared ahead to avoid other problems.
Since 1999, parents in north and south districts have had their choice of three K-4 schools with all fifth- and sixth-graders attending either Sherman Avenue or Dana Road. There has also been one countywide magnet elementary, Bowmar Avenue.
This year the Vicksburg Warren School District returned to community schools with the idea that siblings and children in one neighborhood will all attend the same K-6 elementary school, rather than being bused to schools all over Warren County.
Debra Thurmon, librarian at Dana Road Elementary and Vicksburg Intermediate, said the return to community schools has been beneficial for the students.
”It’s been a very positive change. Because of the community school change, we also switched from two separate libraries to one library for all students this year. It’s great interaction for the students,“ she said.
Thurmon said the community schools have brought brothers, sisters and cousins together at the same school, which has been an asset.
”They like seeing each other and waving across the library. We also have reading activities that they participate together like book buddies, where older students read to younger students, and arts and crafts time, where the older ones help the younger ones learn to cut and glue,“ she said.
”We’re hoping to start a creative writing project later in the year to allow the younger ones to tell the older ones what they want to write about, and the older ones put it in writing,“ Thurmon said.
Price said fewer than 200 students are not attending community schools for various reasons submitted by parents during the five-month window of request time. Parents must provide transportation for students who do not attend neighborhood schools.
Daphne Turner, the parent of a Redwood Elementary second-grader, requested to stay at Redwood when the new district lines for community schools would have sent her son to Sherman Avenue Elementary.
”I just wanted to stay because we live three miles from Redwood School, and I definitely don’t mind taking him and picking him up,“ she said.
Turner said her son loves his school, and she hopes to get her younger son into kindergarten at Redwood next year.
”All the schools are good in this school district, but for us it was just better to stay where we were,“ she said.
Price said the district office has received mostly positive feedback on the switch to community schools.
”The negative feedback we’re received has all been associated with other individual issues that we’ve dealt with,“ Price said.
Dana Road Elementary parent Tracy Doyle missed the window of request time to stay at a previous school. She said although she sees the benefits of community schools, she’s eager to switch back to her third-grade daughter’s previous school, South Park Elementary.
”She liked it better there. All her friends are still there. If I could switch her now, I would,“ she said.
Doyle said she takes a late lunch break to pick her daughter up when the bus drops her off at their home on Cottage Row Drive.
”I usually take her to my mom’s house, which is where the bus dropped her off last year from South Park. But if I can’t leave work, it is nice that the other kids from the neighborhood are there, too. She can go home with them for a little while until I can get there,“ Doyle said.