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Our View: Forward thinking on school issues

It’s great to see East Albemarle Elementary School Principal Jonathan Brooks and Central Elementary School Principal Melissa Smith thinking creatively to solve overcrowding issues in the local school system.

Their idea of taking the two schools and dividing the grades among them is not new, but it is an interesting way to solve the problem of a lack of space for kindergarten and first-grade classrooms at Central. Central has a big building but state law requires classrooms for children in third grade and below to be on the first floor. That’s a problem.

The principals’ plan would place all the city’s kindergarten and first graders at East Albemarle while placing second, third, fourth and fifth graders at Central. The space problem would be solved, but other problems may be created.

The move would require staggered start times so the same buses could serve both schools. Siblings may be separated but we would point out that these same siblings are going to separated when the older gets to middle school and again in high school, so that is going to happen at some point.

There’s some concern about teachers not wanting to move from one school to the another, but that should not be taken seriously. The schools are less than two miles apart. It’s not like teachers are being asked to commute to Locust.

Many of the comments concerning the plan have been about the Exceptional Children’s program which is currently housed at East Albemarle and would be moved to Central under the new plan. This would be a big change and there is also concern about the ability to mainstream these children at Central. This situation requires some serious thought and consideration.

But, there are a few things to keep in mind when discussing this potential change.

1. It is early. The principals are going about this process the correct way by involving parents and stakeholders in the process to get feedback and uncover potential sticking points. Nothing has been decided so there is no reason to increase blood pressures at this point. Parents should keep an open mind.

2. There will be costs involved. East Albemarle is probably not perfectly outfitted to have all its classrooms set up for kindergarteners and first graders. What will the transportation costs be since buses may have to cover the territories of both schools? The principals also have a wish list of positions that come with this plan. That would increase costs.

3. Hallelujah, someone is thinking. How many times do we wish our schools would try something different? We complain about public education not working but when someone proposes something new, the first impulse is to shoot it down. Let’s take some time and explore this option fully.

It is also very good to see that principals in our school system have the freedom to be creative and try new things with the support of the administration. We need more innovative ideas like this to improve our school system and push us into the future, no matter how uncomfortable and different that future may be.