Parents Phyllis Politz and Mary Salvador were just two of several parents manning the computer lab at Spanish Lake Elementary School on Aug. 10.
Most are members of the school’s parent-teacher organization, called Community And Teacher Stakeholders — CATS.
Principal Britt Colon pointed out the groups of parents in intense conversations inside. “No crying kindergartners this year, just a few crying parents,” he said.
Politz, president of the organization, and her parent volunteers set up a table with coffee and pastries. “It’s sort of a decompression room, mostly for parents with children in kindergarten,” Politz smiled. “That first one’s the hardest,” she said.
But once the tears have dried up, she said, it’s a great way to let parents know about ways they can get involved in their children’s school.
“We’re so lucky to have such a good school so close to my house,” Salvador said.
Across the Mississippi River, eighth-graders at Lowery Middle School were in the middle of a real reunion.
All Lowery students who went from sixth- to seventh-grade last school year, went to Donaldsonville High School’s campus, said Lowery Principal Monica Hills.
About six years ago, when the combined Lowery campuses opened, and West Ascension Elementary and the old Lowery Middle closed down, seventh- and eighth-graders had to be moved to temporary buildings on Donaldsonville High School’s campus.
After a reconfiguration of the west bank feeder system over the summer, “we brought those seventh-graders back to eighth-grade at Lowery,” Hills said. “They’re taller. We had to change out the desks that were meant for smaller kids,” she said.
In many ways, the transition will be easy, because both Donaldsonville High School and Lowery Middle have been using the same professional development program, known as TAP, for the last three years.
Hills and her staff are also in the process of getting the new seventh- and eighth-grade teachers who came over from Donaldsonville High familiar with Lowery’s campus and routines.
That process started before the first day of school, when the teachers rode a school bus to some of the areas their students live. Some were surprised at how long a ride some students have to take to school every day, Hills said.
“We did some team-building exercises, as well,” Hills said. The ride through some of Donaldsonville’s more-remote areas “gave teachers an opportunity to see how beautiful Donaldsonville really is,’ she said.
It also put some things into perspective for Christina Vallejo, who, along with Teach for America recruit Elizabeth Allen, works with overage middle school students in a career-oriented program called Connections.
“Some of these students still live and work on farms,” Vallejo said. “It starts to make sense, why some kids are tired when they get to school.”
Hills said they’re giving the seventh- and eighth-grade students a little more independence than they had before.
“We don’t make them walk around flipped and zipped,” Hills said, referring to the practice of folding their arms in front of them, and remaining quiet.
“The kids seem really happy to be back,” Hills said, “and the parents are very excited about it, too.”