Monday, February 7, 2011

Review of Bottenfield Elementary

So here's the thing about Bottenfield, it's kind of like when I read Harry Potter. I didn't want to like it, but even after only 20 minutes in a question and answer period and a brief tour of just the art and kindergarten rooms before I had to leave and take my dog to the vet, I understood why it's one of the most requested schools in the district.

To be blunt, comparatively, Bottenfield has its shit together. It's not perfect, but the aura of the place is very different than most of the other schools I've been in.

The cons first: 1) This is the school that told me when I called for an individual tour that I could not go in the rooms because I would be a disruption to the learning process. This annoyed me.

2) The principal came off at the parents night as kind of -- self-important. I'm pretty sure it was just stress about figuring out how to tell someone about your school in the six minutes you have before you have to repeat the same schpeel to the next demanding and clueless parent. But in the library with the parents engaged and bombarding questions, Matthew Foster and Jaime Roundtree, the assistant principal, did a great job of giving facts and using humor to make the situation a bit less bewildering for parents.

3) Bottenfield, like many of the other schools, is crunched for space. Like Westview, they're in line for an expansion down the line because right now they have gym and PE in the same room, their music room is a portable that requires kids to get on hats and coats and walk outside to the other building for class, and they have a number of social worker/one-on-one help that takes place in the hallways rather than in classrooms. Band is in the church next door for heaven's sake. And the art room isn't on a cart, but realistically, the art teacher has an oversized closet as his space. The space issue is also evident in the classrooms. The kindergarten classrooms have stacks of materials parked everywhere.

4) Drop off and pick up, like Carrie Busey has to deal with Kirby Road, is on Prospect Road. They have a police officer out there directing traffic, but it's still a hassle.

Which brings me to the pros:

1) Eighty-five percent of the students in the school qualified for gifted program last year. Most of them chose to stay at Bottenfield.

2)The PTA members, similar to Westview, gave us our tours of the buildings. They all had multiple children go through the school and volunteered often.

3) They have a later start. They start at 8:30 and let out at 3:10 p.m.

4) I could throw a ball from my work at Mother's Morning Out to Bottenfield Elementary, which makes that situation kind of nice.

5) There is an aura about the building that says -- professionalism, respect, and investment that a lot of the other schools really need. You don't get a feeling like there's a handful of parents showing up to help out at this school. You get more of a feeling that the folks who chose this school are all heavily involved with their children's education.

6) They appear to have the attitude that they are the little school that can from the top down. They figure out ways to make it happen.

7) Male elementary school teachers were everywhere. I tripped over three of them in the 7 minutes I got to go down the hall. The art teacher, a first grade teacher and a kindergarten teacher. I hadn't seen that anywhere else.

8) The kindergarten rooms still have centers and lots of them.

9) They'll have air conditioning in the building by next Fall.

I was impressed, and since I didn't want to be, you know that says something. But there's this lingering issue I still have in my head. It's my issue alone, and other people on the tour might not have noticed it like I did or may think that I was smoking something because they didn't see this at all... but outside of Barkstall, this is the first school I'd been in where it was clear that the majority of students came from higher socio-economic homes. The teachers dressed impeccably, as where the administrators. The rooms were full of materials that were really high quality stuff, and you could tell the teachers kept them around as treasures because they knew the materials worked and engaged kids. One of my favorites was that the kindergarteners were studying oceans and they had a slew of not just shells but parts of sea creatures out on the table, including a whole shark's jaw. As I looked at all the tubs of items, I got excited about the number of project approach units the students could do.

But I hate that some schools still appear to have so much while others have to fight tooth and nail for just the basic items. Bottenfield doesn't compete with the new buildings like at Stratton and Barkstall, but it's doing just dandy in the academic framework as well as communicating and involving all families.

I can see why so many parents are so excited when their children get in there.


estrada7 said...

I thought I would chime in. We attended an event with a friend last week at Bottenfield(or maybe it was the week before...)and I loved what I saw. The kids were visiting tables - each had a different country - and getting passport stamps. Very engaged kiddos. Isaac felt right at home and within 10 minutes he was running around like it was his school. There are some definite positives to Bottenfield.

The Fearless Freak said...

Bottenfield was our third choice, simply due to location. We picked Westview and South Side as one and two because we were prox. A to them. I could have seen Bottenfield ranking higher for us, if we lived closer to it.

Just a note on volunteers, I can tell you that Westview had 29 volunteers give 128 reported hours (we are still working to get all volunteers to sign in every time they come in and not just once in awhile) in January alone, according to volunteer report I got last week. I don't know about other schools because our coordinator only works at 2 but I thought that was pretty good.

Lavender Lemonade said...

I love reading your reviews of the Champaign schools. It really gives me an inside look at how Champaign's Elementary schools are that helps when I hear about friends who go to/want to go to various schools. Thanks!