Monday, January 31, 2011

Review of Doctor Howard Elementary School

Today, MacTroll and I visited Doctor Howard Elementary. It's on University Avenue near Eisner Park. I ran by part of it last year in the marathon relay. It reminded me a lot of South Side because the building is 100 years old. Well, it's actually two buildings. There's the main building and then an addition that has an interior walkway that connects the two on the second floor. The kindergarten and first grades are in that addition.

The kindergarten rooms do not have centers. But they do have buckets of learning toys neatly stacked on carts for center-like time. Kids were in the rooms learning a variety of different things. One classroom was learning about capitalization. The other was having a mid-morning snack (at 9:15 a.m.) and the third were working on some kind of individual projects. But the rooms were welcoming, as were the teachers and the assistant principal, who took us on our tour.

The students have a separate art room and music room, but the gym, auditorium and cafeteria are all in the same area, a minute little space in the basement near the library. The children were playing basketball on medium-sized portable hoops. The gym teacher was using the PA system to give instructions over the dribbling and passing communication.

The library was a lot of books and a lot of tables. There weren't any cozy places to sit. Students visit the library once a week, and book check out is for that week.

The PTA is very active and is currently raising money for some new outdoor playground equipment. A few rooms (like music and art) have smart boards, but most classrooms do not.

The drawback for us regarding Doc Howard, similar to Kenwood now that I think about it, is the distance from our house and the start time. Breakfast is served to students at 7:20 a.m., if you choose the breakfast program, which means the buses are probably there at 7:15 a.m., which means from Savoy, kids are probably on the bus around 6:40, which means X-man would have to be up at 5:40. I would have to drive him every day to avoid the 5 a.m. wake up, which wouldn't be too much of a hassle, but we'd still have to leave the house by 7:20 a.m. each day to make sure we were there by the 7:45 a.m. start. I'd also get less time after work (assuming I get a 5-day a week gig at MMO) to get my stuff done before picking him up because they're out at 2 p.m. Yes, I know I'm lazy... always thinking of myself.

The big plus here would be that Doc Howard has some great after school programs. There's a chess club and a Spanish club that all students at all levels are welcome to join. The Assistant Principal seemed very cued into the students when we walked into the rooms, and I liked the feeling of it being a building meant for small people rather than an institutional feel (which is how I feel in newer schools).

Besides that, the only other thing that frustrated me was the technology in the building. The computers the children were using were really old emacs. One classroom had a dual FLOPPY drive Apple from when I was in high school (think Performa, Quattro, Centris era). MacTroll and I walked out and we both said, "What the hell were those machines?" We totally wanted to give them money for new computers.

The area around the school is mostly paved. There are play areas. Kindergarten and First Grade play together at one playground and then the bigger kids move between two others.

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