I went to the Wildwood end of year picnic last night and am so sad this morning. I love Wildwood. I saw my daughter participate last night in a strong vibrant diverse community that is now going to be lost in the rebuilding plan. Wildwood is a place where Nick Yaffe, the principal, knows all the children by name. The community is incredibly diverse, in all kinds of ways, and friendships are formed across, around, and through differences of all sorts. As a parent, I feel part of a strong community that is just beginning, as my daughter is only in kindergarten, and I see her growing into this rich world.
I see her watch the 6th graders perform with visions of herself developing inside her mind. I see her run up to the neighborhood children, a few grades ahead, feeling her life, her neighborhood and her world interconnected. She has a path for growth for herself; she is part of a larger world; she is seen. And she is developing friendships and connections that defy the prejudice and segregation that we see in the larger world around us.
I fear for grade reconfiguration – the splitting off of children and segregating them into age-pods. No sense of where they’ve come from or where they’re going. No connection to their older and younger siblings who are in other schools.
I fear for a larger school and the development of segregated friendship circles, that is undermined now by the smallness and the diversity in our elementary schools, challenging children and families to befriend people different from themselves.
I fear the loss of the outdoor playspace, as a parent and as a physician amidst the obesity epidemic. I saw those children last night, playing soccer, playing tag, running wild and making the world their own. This space will not be available to them under the current plan.
I know we need new buildings. But we are sacrificing the strength of our communities, the health and development of our children with this new plan.
As for the issue of equality, parity does not equal equality. I think the attempt to provide the same school for all children of Amherst will not meet the needs of our diverse community of children and families and will sacrifice a great deal in the process.
Our school committee and Maria Geryk have not listened to their constituents. We do not want grade reconfiguration. We want to rebuild the schools for our deep communities, while attending to the needs of children and families within these communities. Don’t sacrifice the health, education, diversity and social fabric we have developed and continue to nurture in Amherst. There is another way.