Today, MacTroll and I took X-man to tour Kenwood Elementary School. We hadn't heard much about the school besides the fact that it's not one of the schools that is usually over chosen at the lottery. The overall test scores of the school appear to be low in regards to the No Child Left Behind situation, but we found the environment and leadership there to be quite -- welcoming and warm.
We were given a tour by the principal, Lisa Geren. She comes with a friendly southern accent and immediately tuned into X-man, shaking his hand first and welcoming him. (If you know me, this made me like her immediately.) Then she took us into her office where a student was finishing reading to the school's on-site literacy dog, Ms. Susie. Susie was a rescue dog, who hangs out in the principal's office all day. The children who earn a chance to read to her get to sit in a bean bag and read and visit with the dog. X-man thought that this was very fun -- because it was highly irregular.
On our tour, we visited Super Sam's kindergarten class. We waved at him, but he seemed confused to see us out of place. :-) The kindergarten rooms were all gigantic and very well decorated. They looked like the kind of place I wouldn't mind spending six hours learning to read, write and do math. Lots of art hanging on the walls, tables were in a neat order and in each kindergarten room the children were completely engaged in what was going on.
Kenwood has two courtyard environments. They're small, but one is home to a garden that is help supported by the local Master Gardeners. It also has squirrel feeders, tables to eat lunch on outside when the weather is nice. The other has a fish pond (with a turtle). The courtyards let a lot of natural light into the hallways that was nice, and the principal made a point of stating that it's a very animal friendly place. They were hoping to have baby squirrels in the tree in the courtyard in the spring.
The cafeteria and the gym are the same place and showing its age, but X-man was excited because they just installed a brand new climbing wall.
Kenwood has individual music and art rooms, so there's no art on a cart. The music teacher invited us in where the children were singing. X-man asked her right away about her obsession with Elmo. "There are just -- soooo many."
Enrichment had its own classroom to work on accelerated reading. We did see a student or two working with folks one on one in the hallway from time to time. We also saw parents who were volunteering in the classrooms. The students were getting group photos taken in the hallway when we got there. The library was HUGE and had fun beanbags for kids to sit down and read in.
The kindergarten rooms didn't have clear center areas any more, but they had many other fun items (like puzzle carts, games, etc., available.) So even though there wasn't any kind of housekeeping or block area, X-man thought it still looked like a fun place to be.
The neighborhood is in Holiday Hills, so it's lower middle class, but it is tucked away from busy streets and quiet. The school runs on a balanced or "year-round" schedule. School starts at 7:50 a.m. and runs until 2:05 p.m.
Overall, MacTroll and I were pleasantly surprised. It had that smaller school environment we're looking for, and X-man felt comfortable right away. How do I know? He didn't stop talking the entire time we were there.
MacTroll and I got a little embarrassed when he said, "We're just here to visit. I want to go to Carrie Busey because it's going to be the school in Savoy" to the secretary. We just let it go. Gonna have to work on the social politeness situation as he gets older...
But Kenwood definitely just made it onto our list of five schools.