Keep Pierremont at West Nov. 17

The Parkway School Board needs to listen to its community

Yard signs Pierremont parents have used to voice their opinions peacefully.

Design made by stayatwest.com

Yard signs Pierremont parents have used to voice their opinions peacefully.

Nov. 17 is a day that could change the futures of many young students’ lives. On this day, the school board is voting on a plan that was proposed last spring. Starting next fall, Pierremont Elementary students, instead of moving on to West middle, will move to South middle and then back to West High. The absurd proposition is essentially depriving students of the routine and normal life that has been lived by so many before them.

As a Pierremont alum myself, the idea of these kids being displaced from the same path that every student has followed since the school’s opening enrages me. Not only are these students being ripped away from a better education at West Middle, both statistically and historically, but there are also many unintended social consequences.

The school board claims that the shift is due to overcrowding at West Middle, but they have yet to actually back up their argument with some numbers. After some digging, I found that West Middle is at 65.8% capacity, with over 500 students left before they reach capacity. Meanwhile, South Middle is at 72.1% capacity, with less than 250 students of room before reaching max capacity. With these numbers, it’s clear that the “overcrowding” at West Middle isn’t the biggest worry for our school board. How can they justify fixing the issue by adding more students to an already almost full school.

The best way to grasp how hard this would be on our students is to put yourself in their shoes. Think about what it would be like to go into a large high school only knowing a small group of people that you have gone to school with since kindergarten. Imagine how lost or how lonely you would feel when you arrive at a new school and everyone already knows each other. Kristen Collins, a social studies teacher and mother of a third-grader at Pierremont has had to imagine this nightmare for her daughter since the idea of the shift was announced.

Average MAP test scores at both Parkway West and Parkway South middle schools show the clear academic disadvantage for students who attend Parkway South middle school.

“People have been calling and emailing district administration and school board members and for the most part they have responded, but oftentimes it’s just a canned response from them,” Collins said. “One of the things I keep hearing is that our kids are resilient to change. But we’re forcing so much resilience on our kids already in the face of the pandemic that I feel this is an artificial and poorly timed change.”

Although we have all grown up being told that we have to learn how to work through adversity, don’t you think that these young students have gone through enough? In their first five years of school, they’ve had to deal with a global pandemic. They missed a year of school and a year of seeing familiar faces which could affect them for the rest of their life.

On top of all of this, the district isn’t giving anyone the chance to voice their opinion. They have yet to give Pierremont families a chance to meet face to face with the administration, and the only way they allow us to advocate for our opinion is with two minutes of speaking time at district board meetings.

“We wanted them to have a question and answer, a back and forth where they could see us, an open forum where we could ask them questions and have an actual discussion about this,” Collins said. “They did that for the Mosaics Academy kids that go to West Middle [after Pierremont], but they didn’t give that for the rest of the general Pierremont community. That was extremely off-putting to us.”

Mosaics Academy is a small group of students from all over the Parkway area that go to Pierremont for advanced learning opportunities. Typically there are only five to 10 students in the program each year. So how can you justify listening to a small and unique group but not the rest of the general population?

“They haven’t been to look at us and our children, and have that discussion with us,” Collins said. “And it was a slap in the face that they were willing to do that with the Mosaic Academy parents, but not us.”

It’s not only parents that are upset. Students in our community are speaking up about the issue. High school students who went through Pierremont are extremely frustrated, but once again, the district isn’t giving us a chance to fully express our feelings.

“It isn’t fair to those students,” senior and Pierremont alum Nathan Basler said. “How can the district boast about how good West Middle is, and how it’s the best middle school in our district, but then say that it’s okay to remove kids from that school and claim that it’s an equal learning opportunity somewhere else?”

Nobody would want their own elementary school moving to a different high school or middle school, because we understand the value of community, and how our public schools play a major role in our communities.”

— Elle Dignam

Basler is the third child in his family to go through Pierremont and on to West Middle and West High. This act will be breaking up families, changing experiences that were a big part of many students’ lives.

“Nobody would want their own elementary school moving to a different high school or middle school, because we understand the value of community, and how our public schools play a major role in our communities,” senior and Pierremont alum Elle Dignam said. “I’m sure that if the other schools had to face this, they would be just as frustrated as we are.”

In the middle of her daughter’s first grade year, Collins moved from Claymont to Pierremont, altering her daughter’s already-established community.

“When I moved my daughter from Claymont to Pierremont, I promised her that when she gets to sixth grade she’d be back with all of her Claymont buddies again. And I told her that it was really cool because she’ll be the bridge between all of the Claymont kids and all of the Pierremont kids,” Collins said. “And then when I told her that she very well may not be going to West middle, she bawled. She was like ‘you promised me I’ll be able to see my friends.’”

The value of family and student communities has been completely neglected by the district. They are treating each and every one of us like we are just numbers on a spreadsheet. We are more than numbers. I challenge the school board to take a look at us. Before forever changing the lives of these kids, and impairing their experiences all throughout school, look them in the eye. Listen to their voices. And if the school board is too scared to do that, then they shouldn’t pretend to be brave enough to shift the schools.

Learn more about the cause and sign the petition to keep Pierremont at West middle school by going to https://stayatwest.com/