We Love Larrabee! Save Our Small Schools.

On Friday, I attended an ’80s dance party at our neighborhood school, where Eva is in first grade and next year, Vincent will be in kindergarten. We had a great time. Eva dressed up as an ’80s aerobics instructor. She wore one of my old gymnastics leotards (circa 1988), tights, a headband, and fluorescent pink shoes. For the special occasion, I let her wear blue eye shadow and hot pink lip gloss.

For my own ’80s look, I did my best to create “big hair” but had trouble achieving it. Even my husband, George, who’s a nice guy and graduated from high school in 1985 (when I was in fifth grade, ahem) told me I hadn’t quite captured the look I wanted. I made a part in my hair, tossed it over, and showed him. “You’ve got it now,” he said.

My two older children and I went to the party. It was a blast. We danced, the kids won cakes during the cake walk, and we chatted outside with parents until we had to go home. There was even a photo booth at the event! Here is one of the picture slides I took with Eva. The photo booth company provided props for the pictures.

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This is what I love about our school! “The little school on the hill” is what one of our parents calls it. We create events, show up, have a few laughs, and go home.

Unfortunately, our “little school on the hill” appears to be doomed. Yep, the powers that be want to close our school down. We are the smallest school in the district. Isn’t it usually the smallest that are the easiest to target and bully? Who knows. What I do know is that we may be small, but we are not weak.

The Coalition to Save Larrabee Elementary, of which I am a part, does not want our dear school closed and we do not agree with the so-called reasons for the proposed closure.

Here are some of our reasons why Larrabee should remain open:

  • At Larrabee, we maintain an environment of student and family “belonging” versus alienation.
  • We notice (and care) whether a student shows up and/or where that student is supposed to be after school.
  • We are sensitive to Larrabee’s diverse family/economic/social/academic needs.
  • We have superior parent and community involvement.
  • We immediately address and put a stop to inappropriate behavior.
  • We have a historic, cultural, and community attachment to our school.
  • Our pleasant neighborhood includes the ability to walk to school or to park easily nearby.
  • Informal discussions and check-ins are a regular part of the day between parents, teachers, and staff at Larrabee.
  • Larrabee is a village where all children are known, recognized, and validated.
  • Children are not lost and/or alone at little Larrabee. They cannot hide.
  • The parent community is friendly and welcoming, not exclusive.
  • Stewardship and care. We nurture our building and each other. Small classrooms mean that children learn flexibility, creativity, boundaries, and respect for one another’s space.
  • Larrabee embraces and builds a community that understands economic and other forms of diversity.
  • Our classrooms are enriched beyond the building because of neighborhood support.
  • We model sustainability and efficiency because we can walk and bike to school.
  • Our Larrabee Elementary, the smallest school in the district, has the most robust after-school enrichment program. Larrabee is an economically diverse population. With daily opportunities until 4 p.m., our enrichment program helps cover childcare gaps while offering classes in chess, math, basketball, woodworking, choir, art, strings, theater, and field games. Larrabee has become a model for other schools in this regard.
  • Larrabee encourages regular communication among its students, teachers, and parents both inside and outside the school.
  • Discussions regarding events, progress, behavior, and celebrations are not limited to formal, rigid, and scheduled check-ins.
  • Children and parents are known to an uncommon degree.

In addition to the above, here’s why I love Larrabee:

Last fall, our principal celebrated her own birthday by hosting an evening school-wide pajama and movie party in the gym! How excited the children were to show up with their blankets, pillows, jammies, as well as with their sisters, brothers and parents for a movie and popcorn. And how kind and generous of our principal to host such an event for her families. What fun to gather as a school in our little gym and enjoy a movie and popcorn together.

As a mother, there is nothing I love more than waiting with the neighborhood parents for my child at the bottom of the Larrabee stairs at the end of the school day. When the bell rings, I look with anticipation for Eva’s teacher to open the door and for my little girl to emerge with her big smile. Eva scans the small gathering of grown ups until she sees me, and then waves as she waits for permission from her teacher to descend the stairs to my open arms. When the sun is out, the children play on the playground after school until their parents insist it is time to go home.

I can’t even imagine what it would be like to wait with parents at non-neighborhood schools who have only a long line of buses, cars, SUVs, congestion and exhaust fume to look forward to during after-school pick-ups!

Last year, after I gave birth to my sweet baby, Valerie, everyone at Larrabee, from the lunchroom attendant to the teachers to the students were (and remain) excited and supportive toward my children and me. And, as a mother who is often a “seasonally single parent” because my husband is a commercial fishing captain and often away from home, the staff at Larrabee is unfailingly kind and understanding about our unique situation.

I love Larrabee. I love the size of the school, the community, the families, and the students. It saddens—and yes, even sickens—me to think of retiring this lovely school and losing all of the above.

We have a historical and unique school full of character. And this school works. Many of us moved to and live in this area because we wanted our children in the existing elementary schools. And now, our reasons are being dismissed, disregarded, and decimated.

A neighborhood school that is quaint and safe and friendly is what is ideal for my children. It is why we moved here. It is why so many of us moved here. I am not interested in having my children attend a mega-school on mega-property surrounded by buses and apartment buildings and traffic.

Preserving, renovating, modernizing, and keeping our historic Larrabee open should be an option. On May 8, we have a chance to convince the School Board of our thoughts and opinions. Will they care?

I don’t know.

But they should.

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