The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 11, 1997 · Page 8
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 8

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 11, 1997
Page 8
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AS SUNDAY, MAY 11, 1997 GREAT PLAINS THE SALINA JOURNAL FROM PAGE A1 A parent is undergoing treatment in a halfway house. A child moves into a residential group home, A family moves in with relatives. Or the rent is due, and the family can't pay the bills. With about 20 percent of Salina residents moving each year, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, changes in a school population are expected. Changes in the housing market and rental properties can fuel the moves. And society has become more mobile, with families sometimes moving as far away as California and back again within several years. Coming and going Longtime educators agree the movement is nothing new. But it is increasing, and so are the number of times students move within a school year. "We have students who have been to four schools by the time they reach the first grade," a Whittier teacher said during a recent lunch break when teachers were asked about the problem. Some of the students are moving from school to school within the Salina School District, but a large number are moving into or out of Salina. Of schools in the Salina district, Whittier-Bartlett, which also has a building at 300 S. Ninth, has had the most students moving in and out. Since school started in August, 132 students have enrolled and 104 have left. As many as 50 students came and went in January alone. The school has 517 students. Of the students who* came, 74 moved from out of town and 39 moved from another school in Salina. There also were 19 new special education students. Of the students who left, 59 moved out of town and 34 had attended another Salina school. And 11 special education students left. The long-term effect of the mobile society shows up at Whittier, where only 17 of the about 60 fourth-graders started at the school as first-graders. More work for teachers Teachers in schools with high turnover rates are constantly rearranging classrooms, finding new materials, regrouping students and reteaching lessons new students don't know. The constant comings and goings of students create other work, such as stacks of paperwork, especially if a student needs special education services. In some cases, principals and counselors have to hunt down students' records from other schools. And dozens of books students have taken home from the library never get returned. "It takes at least an hour of secretarial time for each student who comes in or out," said Whittier- Bartlett principal Susy Reitz. At Oakdale, principal Gail Konzem looked back at class lists from three years ago and discovered that about 45 percent of the students who would be in the third- through sixth-grades are gone. The school has 244 students. Of the 35 students in Oakdale's sixth-grade classes, only 13 students started kindergarten at Oakdale or the former Gleniffer Hill Elementary School, 1511 Gypsum. The schools merged in 1994. That's quite a contrast from what school experiences were in the past. Oakdale's Levin said her two children, Amanda, 28, and • Douglas, 37, both who still live in Salina, had a stable schooJ environment at Stewart Elementary School, 2123 Roach. Class Struggle Family finds Oakdale to its liking Second-grader, two sisters adjust quickly after parochial school By CAROL L1CHTI Tlie Salina Journal As a new second-grader at Oakdale Elementary School, A.J. Garcia wanted to fit in. "He wanted to be liked by everyone, so if he was having trouble he would not raise his hand," said A.J.'s mother, Velinda Garcia. But after the first week or so, the 8-year-old and his two sisters — 7-year-old Ana and 5-year-old Alicia — had made friends and adjusted to their new school. And mom couldn't be happier her children are at Oakdale, 811 E. Iron. "You can tell it's a caring school," she said. The Garcia children are among a large number of students moving into schools in the Salina School District. Students also are transferring out, moving either to another Salina school or out of town. Such movement makes for an ever- changing population at several schools that can frustrate teachers. But unlike many other students who have changed schools frequently, the Garcias had never moved before. Velinda Garcia recently talked about the experience of moving her children to a new school. She said Oakdale officials helped smooth what could have been a traumatic experience. Velinda and her husband, Johnnie, started working in January as legal secretaries in a new Salina law office. Their children continued to attend a parochial KELLY PRESNELL / The Salina Journal A.J. Garcia (right) gets help Thursday reading "The Bear with Golden Hair" from Chris Shields in their second-grade class at Oakdale Elementary School. A J. started at the school In March. school in Hutchinson until the family moved here in March. "They were nervous and insecure because they had never been to a different school and because of the thought of leaving all their friends," Velinda Garcia said. But the commute their parents were making meant they spent a lot of hours at the baby sitter's, arriving by 7 a.m. and not getting home until after 6 p.m. "They were ready for a change and the chance to see us more," Garcia said. She and her husband toured Oakdale with principal Gail Konzem before deciding to send their children there. They were impressed with the school's computer lab, where the children spend 20 minutes a day instead of the once or twice a month visit they were making to the computer lab at the Hutchinson school. Even attending classes in the school's cottages excited the children, who thought it would be neat to be in their own building, Garcia said. The Garcia girls seemed to adjust quickest to their new school, probably because they are younger, Velinda Garcia said. Alicia is a kindergartner and Ana is in the first-grade. But even son A.J. didn't have too much trouble adjusting. "His teacher was really good and had other students working with him," Garcia said. "I think he's going to excel more than he was, Participating in an after- school program run by the YMCA helped A.J. and Ana make new friends, Velinda Garcia said. "That has been a big plus," she said. "It gave them a chance to interact with kids outside the classroom." Even the food has helped. "They talk highly of lunch and how good the food is," Garcia said. "They were excited to have pizza and pigs in the blanket." Of course, her children still talk of friends left behind. "They still will say, 'I miss Felicia' or 'I miss Jordane,' " Garcia said. But now they also talk about their new friends at Oakdale. "They went to the same school with the same friends all the way through," Levin said. They were able to create lasting bonds, not only with classmates, but their instructors. "They knew all the teachers," Levin said. Friendship problems Educators realize that some moves are inevitable, and that families cannot always wait for summer to relocate. But school officials wish parents would plan moves for natural breaks in the school year such as Christmas or the end of the nine weeks. If class sizes permit, parents can work with the schools to allow their child to finish out the year or nine-week session. Most parents work with the schools, trying to give advance notice and helping with the transition, educators said. But not all do. At times, school officials don't know why a child hasn't shown up at school until a staff member goes to look for the family and sees through a window that the residence is empty. Educators have seen the emotional problems frequent transfers can cause, such as when students have difficulty developing trusting and healthy friendships. "Students with high mobility don't make friends quickly, or if they do it's a possessive, smothering friendship because they know they could be leaving soon," said Mike Hickel, a school counselor at Whittier. He and teachers work with the students to assure them that they can make friendships that will continue even if they move away. "They need to know that friendships can be long-term even if they are not here," Hickel said. "Friendships can be built to last over time. And we want them to be able to enjoy a friendship, but not have it be smothering." Frequent moves also affect how a student approaches schoolwork. "If they feel insecurity in the classroom, they won't be able to do their best work," Hickel said. "They think they aren't going to be here for that long so why do their best work." The welcome mat To combat that attitude, Hickel and members of the school's staff try to convince students that no matter how long they are in a school, they need to do the best they can. The schools welcome the new students with a caring, friendly atmosphere. "We don't want it to sound like we don't want them," said a Whittier teacher among those gathered for lunch. Another said, "We just want them to stay." New students usually are assigned to a buddy or a group of students to show them around the first few days. "That way they are talking to someone and rely on someone and it puts them in a group right away," said Herwig, the Whittier second-grade teacher. "They also have someone to tell them what makes the teacher go nuts." At Sunset, 1510 W. Republic, new students meet first with counselor Dennis Toews. "I try to let them know that we care that they are here and help them feel like they belong," Toews said. "I want them to know that I am here to help them." Toews takes pictures of new students to display in the school hallway, hoping to increase their sense of belonging and introduce the new faces to others. During the 1995-96 school year, Toews met about 140 new students. This year, he has met with 110 students, including 64 students who enrolled after the school year began. Sunset has 435 students. Making the adjustment Schools try to ease the transition for new students. The schools require students to start the day after they enroll, which gives teachers time to prepare and the student and parent a chance to tour the school. At Oakdale, Nancy Schulte, who teaches a combination fifth- and sixth-grade classroom, encourages new students to talk about their old school. "I try to bring that out and let them talk about the things they left behind, what it was like there and what they appreciated about where they came from," Schulte said. Oakdale fourth-grade teacher Karen Levin said she doesn't call on a new student the first day. "I usually leave them alone unless they volunteer to do something or volunteer an answer," she said. Children often adjust quickly to a new school, possibly because of the welcoming, friendly atmosphere the schools hope to convey. "Children are resilient," said Whittier first-grade teacher Lynette Farr. "They adjust well." In fact, those students who have moved a lot adjust faster than students who have never switched schools before, teachers and counselors said. But those students can have a harder time academically. Teachers also worry about test scores when new students move in late during the school year. "Stability is a major indicator for academic progress," Herwig said. "We have to do a lot of catch-up." That's true outside the regular classroom. "It affects us, too," said Whittier-Bartlett music teacher Brenda White. "If the students are learning to play the recorder or working on a program, the new student feels left out. I have to find a way to help them fit in." Just as when new students come in, teachers try to help those they know are leaving. "I try to have a goodbye party because we want to make a student feel special when they come or leave," Herwig said. Oakdale's Schulte said, "We would like to have some closure. I think it would make the kids feel better." Ips to make tot move easier Here are ideas teachers and parents have for helping make a transfer to a new school: • Let the schools know in advance the transfer will occur. Both the school the student is leaving and the new school should be notified. • Check with the school to see if class sizes permit the child to remain until a natural break in the year, such as an end to a nine-week session. • Make sure the student's records can be transferred. Some districts won't release a student's transcript if a fine is owed. • If the child receives special education services, otter your parental records for the school to copy. Parents can often provide copies faster than the other school districts. • Involve children in an after-school program at the school if possible, sign them up for recreation programs and encourage them to join clubs or organizations such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or church groups. • Help introduce children to other youngsters in the neighborhood. • Communicate openly with the new school to develop a rapport with your child's teacher and the rest of the staff. . • Assure children that while they'll make fria.nds' at their new school, they can also keep / friendships they made at their former school. They can write letters or if possible, call or send e-mail. Your Prescription Ic Just A Phono Call Away. B&K PRESCRIPTION SHOP "People Helping People" 827-4455 In 30 minute or less or the next one is FREE on all GM, Toyota, and Honda vehicles. Extra time may be required for other makes. INCLUDES UP TO 5 QUARTS OF HAVOUNE OIL AND FILTER Havoline F O R M U L A^. 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