In the wake of decisions on school consolidation, students from sending and welcoming schools are coming together, taking the best of what each school has to offer and forming united, culturally-rich school communities to support their learning.
Students from C.E. Hughes, a designated welcoming school, recently invited their peers from Henson Elementary for a day of cultural integration cloaked in simple play.
“It was an opportunity for students from both schools to come together as one group,” said Hughes Principal Lucille Howard. “The Hughes students were excited to show off their school and meet new children, and the students from Henson got to experience firsthand what Hughes has to offer.”
The first of three such integration opportunities at Hughes, this event was titled “Just for the Fun of It”, and was specifically for students in grades K-2. The children participated in team sports, including potato sack and relay races, then had lunch together and attended an awards ceremony where each received a medal. Every child was dressed in the same attire, so it was impossible to distinguish who was from what school – a symbolic gesture to help bring students together.
“Children have no preconceived ideas about a place,” said Principal Howard. “They’re very open, which is why we’ve started with them. Our hope was that the students from Henson would go home and tell their parents what a great experience they had, and that their parents would in turn be persuaded to visit Hughes and enroll.”
The impact seemed evident almost immediately, as enrollment at Hughes took a significant jump in the days following the integration event. Similar opportunities are now being planned for the older students, and there will be open houses and school tours throughout the summer for both students and parents.
“This is a warm environment with highly-qualified teachers that can meet the individual needs of all students,” said Principal Howard. “We are very confident that once they come and visit us, parents will agree that Hughes is a good choice for their children.”
In another part of the District, Ellington Elementary invited third-graders from both Emmet and Key to participate in an integration event that was all about literacy. Students gathered in the Ellington gymnasium, where adults read aloud to them at three different reading stations. They then had the chance to play basketball, have their faces painted, and try out the school’s percussion instruments.
“This was our way of welcoming students from Emmet and Key and letting them know that we are happy to have them as part of our family,” said Ellington principal Shirley Scott. “We are eager to embrace them and help them feel comfortable in their new school.”
Though it was all about new beginnings, the event at Ellington actually marked an end to one very special program that started for these students weeks ago. Even prior to the final decisions on school consolidation, the third-graders from Ellington, Emmet and Key had been writing to each other as pen-pals. The integration event at Ellington gave those students a chance to meet each other in person and exchange one last letter before they all become part of one school.
“I commend all three schools for putting their students first and creating a safe and nurturing environment,” said Board of Education Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, who attended the event at Ellington. “It’s wonderful to see the students, teachers and administrators coming together to form a new and cohesive learning community.”