Friday, December 19, 2008

BTU pilot school preview - Dec. 15

This is one time when I don’t envy parents making a school choice for their children for next fall. I visited the future BTU pilot school in the Parkman building (currently Young Achievers) this week, and while I think it has potential, there’s a lot that’s still up in the air, like hiring all of the teachers. They anticipate hiring their teachers in late January.

Curriculum is another big TBD since they want the curriculum to come from the teachers. Still, it’s not very reassuring. And I’m hearing the same thing from parents around town.

Next year, they’ll have a single strand for K1-2 and then two classes for grade 6 to deal with all the area elementary schools that end at grade 5 and want another option for middle school. Eventually, the BTU will be a K-8 school. When they are at capacity, they anticipate having three sixth grade classes and two classes for seventh and eighth grade as children leave for exam schools.

Their school day will run 8:30-3:00 with an after-school program run by the Hyde Park YMCA.

They aim to provide more of a liberal arts education. They want to offer a world language, likely Spanish or Chinese, depending on who they hire. I think science and social studies were going to be part of the curriculum.

There won’t be a principal. It will be entirely teacher run. Two teachers are expected to teach part-time and do administrative tasks the rest of the time.

Next year, with the small number of students, it will be difficult to bring in specialists, but they are trying to have physical education, visual arts, and music.

The building currently has a library/computer lab and it sounds like the planning committee wants to keep that configuration.

I will say that I was fond of the Parkman building. The creaky wooden floors made me feel like I was walking around an old house museum. If Wikipedia to be trusted, the city bought the land on which the school was built in 1896.

Naturally, an old building can be a mixed bag. Like in other older schools, the water isn’t drinkable, so they bring in bottled water. The heating system is persnickety. The building has a slightly maze-like feel. They put up a lot of signs in the hallway to direct you to major landmarks in the school (gym, cafeteria, etc.).

The playground is great, much shadier than others I’ve seen. I even saw a compost pile along the side of the school. I love a good compost pile. They didn’t mention whether the compost was also going to make the move to Mattapan with Young Achievers.

The BTU school doesn’t plan on utilizing the St. Andrews’ building across the street like Young Achievers did, according to this JP Gazette article. At first, they’ll probably have more than enough space in the Parkman building.

I’m withholding judgment on this school for another year. I’ll definitely visit again next winter to see how they’ve handled the transition.

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

As far as a World Language is concerned can I put in a word for Esperanto?

Detail at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670 or http://www.lernu.net