Opinions vary widely at community forum about WR plans

Zoe Greszler • Mar 9, 2017 at 1:00 PM

COLLINS — The Western Reserve school district is considering relocating its preschool to the elementary building on the main school campus and the sixth grade from the elementary building to the middle/high school building. 

In a community forum, the board of education asked parents and concerned community members to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns, which raised plenty of voices at the Tuesday night event.

Here is a sampling:

• Livi French, school counselor in a neighboring district and mother of four Western students ranging from preschool to sixth grade:

“First with the pre-K being our most vulnerable students, I have never felt any security issues with the Wakeman location,” French said. “The building is very welcoming, it’s a very intimate environment with very ample space. … I’m also very much an advocate for play time. It allows students to express themselves. The more play time, the better off they are. I also like that the preschool has a fenced-in playground. I also feel that students feel safe in that building. They are 3- and 4-year-olds and the building with third and fourth graders can be a scary place for them. Coming to the ‘big school’ (elementary building) is a big milestone. That’s important to them.

“I am very concerned about our kindergarten being moved out of kindergarten wing. If the preschoolers were to move, I’m just wondering why they couldn’t coexist, to not interrupt the kindergartners in their specific space.

“It’s also of significant concern for the sixth graders losing their recess,” French continued. “It’s very important for them to release their high amounts of energy. Even if you schedule for minimal interaction between them and the higher grades, they’re still going to interact. In sixth grade, they’re entering an emotional stage of development in their lives where they’re depending on their friends and others around them, in their environment who they’re around, rather than their parents.

“In my opinion, I’ve seen more pros tonight than I expected, but in my opinion, there are more negative aspects than positive,” French said.

• Dale Daniels, a previous member of the board of education:

“I’ve thought of this a lot,” Daniels said. “When we originally put them (the sixth grade) there, it was always our intent to bring them back the very next year. And every research article and everyone in education knows it is academically the worst thing we could do to keep the sixth grade with the elementary. You will have to make it a true middle school, not a high school setting to make that successful, though. You will have to make that happen.

“I’m not an advocate of bringing (the preschool) to this complex, but in my mind is going to happen sooner or later. … We just have to be smart about it.”

• Crystal Barry, mother of four students from preschool to high school

“I went to Western and I came here my entire life,” said Barry. “We have a sixth grader that wants to be moved over. Honestly, my preschooler hates it over there (in Wakeman). As far as safety goes, I’ve never seen a cop patrolling the area and if someone wanted to go in, it would be easy. The safety is much better at Western because of all of the procedures keeping it safe.

“I’m all for moving preschool here because they’re not part of the school,” Barry added. “It needs to be Western Reserve — the same campus. I think they’ll have a better time and they’ll be more interactive with other kids. There will be more staff if a kid gets sick or hurt, so it’s not all on one teacher.”

Other parents and former teachers expressed concern over the the aides working more as they work to take both the preschool and kindergarten students to the bathrooms, the middle school’s many access points to the high school, the sixth graders possible increased influence and access to drugs, whether transportation will be provided for preschool students if they are moved and space issues for all grades. Some even suggested constructing a building or addition for either a new preschool, a separate junior high or both.

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