By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
When Laura Lee Pike dropped her granddaughter, December, off at Killbuck Elementary on Wednesday, she had a “hard time letting her go.” She actually waited until December’s teacher hugged her to sneak away.
The first day at a new school can be an emotional one, especially for kindergartners going to class for the first time. For some in Anderson Community Schools, it was a completely novel experience as their kids headed to a school unlike any other in the district.
With an increase in enrollment forecast for 2013-14, especially among younger students, ACS reopened Killbuck to serve as a kindergarten extension for Valley Grove and Eastside elementaries. And it reopened it on a modified balanced calendar, school starting a week earlier than usual.
”I have mixed emotions about it,” Pike said. “It’s way out here in the middle of nowhere.”
She’s concerned about making it out to the school quickly if anything were to ever happen, but also thinks it’s a good idea to have the kids separated from older students.
The setup should help prevent bullying, Joshua Chapin said, and provide more individualized student attention.
Chapin was waiting after school with Holly Wilson, who said Killbuck is about five miles out of the family’s way, but that she thinks the kindergarten extension will be better for her son and other kids with less distractions.
Principal Sharon Buchanan said there are 12 classrooms at Killbuck with about 250 students. With an estimated increase of about 100 kids to nearly 750 kindergartners, ACS reopened Killbuck to help relieve the district’s most congested buildings.
The Killbuck proposal on ACS’ website stated Eastside would have needed 38 classrooms versus the 32 it has with the increase. The calculation was based on a class size of 28 in kindergarten through third grade and 30 in grades four and five.
”When there’s more kids, it’s harder to give them attention in the areas they need,” Wilson said, adding she’s grateful for smaller class sizes.
Buchanan said “the kids were definitely excited to be here,” some excitedly chatting about what they’d learned Wednesday as they walked out of the building, and added that the staff wants to be there, because they love teaching the little ones.
While the students and teachers had a good day, there was a bus delay at the end of it that upset some parents.
“I’m highly irate,” Earl Detienne Jr. said of the situation. His daughter was on the wrong bus and didn’t get home until 6:17 p.m. With school ending at 3:30 p.m., he expected his daughter, Celeste, to be home around 4:45 and was concerned when she didn’t.
”That shouldn’t have happened,” he said, adding Celeste told officials she was on the wrong bus and that the school should’ve called to inform parents of the delay.
Buchanan said it took longer to get the kids out because officials wanted to ensure they were on the right bus and that drivers had the right addresses. Delays are typical for the first few days until schools and bus drivers fall into a routine, she said.
Buchanan added that they had some parents enroll last minute. She encourages them to sign up for kindergarten roundup so officials get the students’ information sooner.
The highlight of the day, she said, was the kindergarten brigade that helped students get wristbands with their addresses for the bus, walked the kids to class and assisted them at lunch.
One of ACS’ district goals, Buchanan said, teachers and staff will be focusing on instruction with the eight-step process and new Benchmark Literacy program.
Principal of Anderson Elementary before heading to Killbuck, she added, “I can concentrate just on kindergarten and what they need. I don’t have to split my time.”
The downside, she said, is that the students don’t have older kids setting examples for them.
While Superintendent Felix Chow didn’t visit every school Wednesday — he split the visits into two days with 10 schools open now — he did say the first day seemed “less chaotic,” in part because of online enrollment.
Chow went to schools in the Forest Zone, including Anderson High School and Edgewood Elementary, on Wednesday.
At the secondary level, Principal Kelly Durr said Highland Middle School had a good day and that she plans to push goals set last year, while she was interim principal.
Those include “high expectations for student behavior and high expectations for student performance.” So, the focus will be on the school climate and instruction. She added that the Success Academy, Highland’s alternative school, is already helping with those goals.
Anderson High School’s new alternative school, The Crossing Educational Center, is also open now. Another big change for ACS, Southview Preschool Center will open Monday as a centralized preschool.
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