Lincoln Park and Piedmont schools: Ready to merge?
The merger of Piedmont and Lincoln Park elementary schools next year should be smooth for students, but perhaps less so for some concerned parents. "The kids don't see the issues parents do," said Sebastian Witherspoon, the Duluth school district...
The merger of Piedmont and Lincoln Park elementary schools next year should be smooth for students, but perhaps less so for some concerned parents.
"The kids don't see the issues parents do," said Sebastian Witherspoon, the Duluth school district's integration and diversity specialist. "They're adaptable."
Witherspoon, flipping burgers Tuesday at a year-end outdoor celebration for the two schools to be combined next year at Lincoln Park, has heard parental concerns about neighborhood violence, cultural differences and adapting to a new environment.
"When you have a consolidation of schools, the intent is to make kids comfortable around each other," he said, and the schools have been working to make that happen.
Things such as pen pals, joint science projects and assemblies and visits to each other's schools went on throughout the year. First- and second-graders drew maps of their communities and shared them with each other.
"The biggest thing is they've made friends," said Cher Obst, principal for both schools this year. "It doesn't seem like such a foreign place to go to or a foreign place to come from."
Piedmont students and some staff will join the Lincoln Park school -- which has space because of the closed junior high -- until the new Piedmont/Lincoln Park school is built on the current Piedmont site. According to the district's most recent construction schedule, building will begin in spring 2010 and should be completed by summer 2011.
Anna Cook, whose daughter enters kindergarten at Lincoln Park this fall, is pleased with the move to have Piedmont students come to Lincoln Park. She wants the district to keep them there instead of building the new school.
"This building has got so much space, it's crazy to expect that after the merger all the kids are going to go to Piedmont," she said. "The kids that have to walk to school, you put up a barrier like that hill, how many kids are going to start not going to school?"
Lincoln Park parent Sarah Miller is concerned her third- and fifth-graders won't get as much attention from teachers in a school with more students.
"I want to make sure they have the time they need," she said. "It's going to be more confusing for them."
Amy Bodin teaches second grade at the Piedmont school, and said Obst has made sure both schools had the same rules and behavior plans this year to make the transition next year easier.
"We're not starting from ground zero," she said.
Piedmont parents have been offered tours of the Lincoln Park school, and teachers and school start times have been made known. While Obst has heard concerns about longer bus rides, planning should make next year mostly seamless, she said.
Piedmont parent Kathy Coffman is comfortable with sending her kids to Lincoln Park, and said she's happy that class sizes will be smaller there than at Piedmont.
"It's a good thing for diversity to mix the kids together," she said.