Sharma Op-Ed: Recommend K-6 on Family Survey

PDF available at https://saveamherstssmallschools.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/sharma-20160106-lettertoeditor.pdf . The results of the survey are available at https://saveamherstssmallschools.wordpress.com/survey-jan-2016/, and did demonstrate that retaining K-6 was the most popular option among parents and teachers alike.

Letter to the Editor of Amherst Bulletin,

January 6, 2016

To the editor:

I am writing to urge all parents, staff in the Amherst schools and concerned citizens of Amherst to respond to the upcoming survey being put out by the Amherst Superintendent Mariah Geryk regarding the plan for building a new elementary school and reconfiguring the elementary program by grade level. As a parent of graduates of the Amherst school system and as an educator I have grave concerns about the idea of establishing an elementary program that results in children moving from one school to another during the early elementary years.

I advocate for any elementary school program to remain K-5th or 6th grade for 2 very important and inter connected reasons.

First, the ability for children to have long term relationships with caring educators who serve as personal connections for students over their youngest and most formative school years is so important. The longevity and depth of relationships with teachers and other building staff are so important for the social/emotional and academic success of all children. It is a true benefit for all children to have enduring relationships and a strong sense of community during their formative years and most important for struggling students.

Secondly, during these early developmental years, transitions from school to school, changing routines, adjusting to new teachers and staff and unfamiliar physical surroundings can pose additional and unnecessary stress for all children. But these transitions have a more significant impact on any children struggling or at risk in any area; academic, social, behavioral, emotional, family stress etc. These children are already struggling and the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of transitional adjustments. For young children, the move to a new school with new staff, new routines, new ways of doing things, unfamiliar faces does result in social/emotional, academic, behavioral and relational regression. The loss of the knowledge of students’ history and loss of familiar relationships can and does impede success. These factors are so important to be considered when thinking about the needs of struggling or disadvantaged students. No matter how children are prepared for transitions, moving to a new school is very stressful whether it is two blocks away or two states away.

This plan may be the most “efficient” way of reconfiguring the elementary schools but it is by no means the most educationally sound and it can have negative impact that offset any expected gains. Please consider providing your voice to support our children continuing to have the care and support of our capable teachers for the time it takes to grow and develop K-5/6.

Mary Crotty Sharma
Amherst, MA

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