Shifting the kindergarten — seven classes in the coming school year — from the Early Childhood Center at the Number Four School to the Lawrence Primary School at the Number Two School, both in Inwood, was a lightening rod as roughly 30 district residents attended the July 9 Board of Education meeting to publicly express their displeasure.
Announced last month in a letter to district parents, Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen explained that the move was in line with the current curriculum and reading program used by kindergarten and the first and second grades.
“The location of kindergarten learners in an environment with first- and second-graders supports the increased emphasis on the critical stage of reading development and strengthens the connection for learners, staff and their families during this ever important ‘learning to read’ stage of development,” Pedersen wrote. In addition, a new playground, anticipated to cost $202,000 is planned to be built at the Number Two School.
Despite the explanations in the letter and in the meeting agenda, residents expressed concern about the change, along with the claim that district officials were not as transparent and open about it as they should have been.
“You are killing a gem of our district for no reason,” said Atlantic Beach resident Phyllis Jonas, a retired teacher, who noted that having kindergarten students in the same building as pre-K children benefits both.
Lawrence resident Jose Serrano and one of the primary organizers of the Five Towns Hispanic Association said he was upset that he found out about the move on social media. “Three weeks ago, last month, I scheduled an appointment to get answers,” he said. “Dr. Pedersen doesn’t work for you (the Board of Education), she works for the community. I don’t think you are doing the best for the kids.”
Ana Sazo, the mother of three Lawrence students ranging in age from 11 to 5, was visibly upset with the district’s action noting that she and her husband work hard as they, “Have to pay attention to the kids and focus on their education, which is most important.” She closed with a plea for the district not to close the Number Four School. District officials have never said they are closing that building, but in the past it has sold the Number One and Six schools and just renewed the lease of the Number Five School to Shulamith School.
Parents Diane and Pablo Portillo, once again raised the issue of having matrons on the school buses for the youngest students, continuing a request since a May incident where their pre-K daughter gleaned on to another parent who was taking her daughter off a bus that was stopped on its morning route and was late getting to the Number Four School.
“I have followed your format and called and emailed, and still I have not heard from you guys,” Pablo said to the board and Pedersen.
Board President Murray Forman said multiple times that Pedersen is available to all parents. After a brief executive session, Forman announced that the residents can email Pedersen “to provide several dates for an informational meeting to be held to address tonight’s concerns.” No date is yet to be set. Forman and Trustee Dr. Asher Mansdorf were re-elected the board’s president and vice president, respectively.
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