John Kowaleski: School project burdens South Amherst families

School project burdens South Amherst families
John Kowaleski
Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Thursday, March 23, 2017

My two boys went through Wildwood Elementary; the oldest started first grade in 2002 and four years later my youngest started kindergarten.

Both my kids struggled to adapt to their new school. We often met with teachers, counselors, staff, and psychologist to help my older boy. Even with some amazing support, it took many hours and was very difficult.

The referendum on the March 28 ballot for the new Wildwood school requires grade reconfiguration, which means two stressful school transitions for every student instead of just one: Crocker Farm for K-1 and then Wildwood for Grades 2-6.

With my kids, I was available to help them. How will lower-income families where both parents work manage this? How will teachers find time to help this many kids? Will it take time away from learning?

In addition to the stress of a second transition, grade reconfiguration adds an extra burden on families in South Amherst, many of whom are people of color as well as low-income. These children face longer bus rides for five of seven years by making them go to Wildwood instead of Crocker Farm, their neighborhood school. This means waking up earlier, spending more time on the bus, and having less time for homework or after-school help for many more years compared to kids living near Wildwood. Grade reconfiguration gives South Amherst kids “the short end of the stick” when it comes to social justice.

Wildwood and Fort River may need fixing, but this proposal is not right because of grade reconfiguration. It places greater costs and burdens on the most vulnerable children in South Amherst, plus a stressful second school transition on all children.

We need a better plan that levels the playing field for everyone. Please vote “no” on March 28.

John Kowaleski
Amherst

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