Mark Twain parents speak out about school change
Ciara Silvey says the news that her kids must soon go to a different elementary school came as a deep shock.
The mother of three Mark Twain Elementary students said Tuesday that the St. Joseph School District is handling its need for new preschool space in an “uneducated” way. By this, she said, she means it has not learned from the past. It is stopping the status quo at Mark Twain too soon and with not enough community input, she said.
Parents were informed about the change, effective in August, by email after a Board of Education decision Monday. Mark Twain has been talked about in public as subject to status change since Jan. 5.
“My daughter, well she loves Mark Twain,” Silvey said. “That’s all she talks about, and that’s her home away from home. And so, to tell her that next year you’re not going to have Mark Twain, it’s not going to be there, that’s going to be upsetting to the children.”
The school board voted 6-0 to change Mark Twain to the second St. Joseph Early Learning Center. In the 2023-24 academic year, along with the site at Lake Contrary, it is hoped the district can support more than 80% of preschool-age students in town. That’s a valid goal, Silvey said. It is just a shame, she said, that it’s being realized by taking away the elementary school that has generations of history in her family.
“I haven’t seen any serious issues getting students into the preschools that we’ve had before,” Silvey said. “We haven’t been told enough about this to make this make sense now. I didn’t hear about it until I got the email.”
Chyann Thomas likewise did not hear about Mark Twain’s future until receiving that message, she said. The parent of one preschooler and one kindergartner also expressed surprise that Mark Twain will be changed to all-preschool, rather than have preschoolers added to the current mix. Even so, Thomas said, she likes the idea. Her youngest child will benefit greatly from preschool close to home, she said. And those who doubt children can let go of their current school may be too pessimistic, she added.
“Kids are resilient, and you’d be very surprised at some of the bounce-back from them,” Thomas said.
Superintendent Gabe Edgar said Tuesday he sympathizes with those feeling a sense of loss. Yet it is his job to make sure all kids have good services, he said, and he is convinced the district should make this change.
There is plenty of space in other elementary schools to take the kids out of Mark Twain and put them in Parkway, Coleman, Carden Park, Skaith and Edison schools, Edgar said. No other campuses will be affected, Edgar said. A school leaders panel will meet on Feb. 1, Edgar said, and it will reunite often, working to ensure there is no loss suffered by any student because of this change, he said.
Edgar said he can’t guarantee every single building will experience no change in the student-teacher ratio, but every possible effort to safeguard that will be made. Staff will be transferred to help.
“And if need be, we can always hire more staff,” Edgar said.
Marcus Clem can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem