‘We’re looking ahead to the future’
Principals at impacted Westside schools try to keep things positive

       Principals at the four Westside elementary schools that will close were doing their best this past week to put a positive face on the coming changes for their respective school communities.

LEFT: Marlys Berg
RIGHT: Terry Martinez
Westside Pioneer photos

       It hasn't been easy.
       Staff and parents are “disappointed,” said six-year Pike Principal Manuel Ramsey, after pausing briefly to decide on the right word. “We felt we had good programs in place to help the most needy kids.” However, added the leader of the school that was deemed the best-achieving Title 1 learning locale in Colorado this year, “we're looking ahead to the future and hope that we can work together at a new school and do our job.”
       To help with the transition, students will be given field trips to their new schools (either Bristol or Jackson), and there will be a “culminating ceremony” for Pike sometime in May, where “we can give it proper respects,” Ramsey said.
       At Washington Elementary, a saddened parent tied large yellow ribbons around the trees in front of the school and put anti-closure posters in them. Principal Terry Martinez had the posters removed, but left the ribbons. He understood the frustration. “There's been a lot of work, a lot of effort here,” said the four-year principal. “It's sad that we'll have to start over. But it doesn't mean we can't get back to something equal or better.”
       Even though he doesn't know his own future yet (principal reassignments won't occur till later this month), Martinez took the initiative to set up a tour of West Sunday, March 1 with West and Washington staff and parent volunteers (as well as Marlys Berg, principal of Whittier), to try to get an idea of how the elementary space could be configured.
       Berg, who's been head of Whittier for five years, said some parents have told her they will not take their children to the new elementary at West, which will combine Whittier, Washington and Buena Vista students, because the eventual plan is to make it a K-8 school (with the existing West Middle School). “But I think it's going to be all right,” she said.

LEFT: David Brilliant
RIGHT: Manuel Ramsey
Westside Pioneer photos

       The kids are the ones having the least problems with the concept of the new school, she observed. “They've asked questions about the food, the lockers and whether their teachers are coming, what the playground is like and whether the Air Force is coming [in continuation of a volunteer program at Whittier],” Berg said. “But the best one I heard was from a second-grader, who asked what they were going to teach us. I said, 'What do you think?' and we talked about it - the same things we teach here.”
       Buena Vista Principal David Brilliant is in the unique position of not only seeing his building close but his students going in opposite directions. The “dual track” that parents and staff worked out this year for the Montessori and traditional educational programs will be divided, with the former directed to the Washington building and the latter to the new West elementary.
       He said the school has sent out a survey to parents, asking, “Will you follow us, understanding that you have to provide your own transportation, and if not, where will you go?”
       The survey info will help the Montessori side to “get an idea of how big we'll be when we start out, and for those going to West, to find out how we can help them make that transition most effectively.”
       Another issue for the Washington location is making it work for the very poor children - some staying at the Red Cross shelter - most of whom traditionally enroll at that school but are unlikely to be familiar with Montessori. Brilliant, who hopes to move there with the Montessori program, said he has proposed offering a “transitional classroom to get them up to speed in the Montessori concept. Obviously, we don't want to turn kids away, but if we don't have some kind of transitional classroom, it will be hard for them.”

Westside Pioneer article