This morning was the second morning of touring schools. Since my tours of Bottenfield and Washington got canceled last week due to weather and migraine, I'm running behind on seeing the schools, which is a bummer. And since today was crazy, I picked two schools that were convenient to the appointments I had today. (So sue me. :-)
This morning I started at Westview Elementary School on John Street (near Mattis). I had been inside Westview before for a couple of FunFests. My friend Freak sends her children there. So I had her experiences in my ear when I went into the building.
While we were waiting, we were able to peek in the gym where a class was doing Dance Dance Revolution. Each student had a pad to record their score and they all stood in two lines behind the massive TV to take part. It was really cute watching them all stomp around. I'm not sure it's really exercise, but it definitely engaged them mentally and physically. And as you get better at DDR, it definitely gets more physical.
The first thing you should know is that the principal did something very different than all the rest of the schools I visited on a tour day. He let the children tell us about what they liked best about the school. The parents were ushered downstairs into the little library, which was decorated very nicely for a basement room with no windows (a bit like Doc Howard's). We were invited to sit. There were snacks and beverages laid out for us while we waited and then the principal introduced himself. After he was done, he invited our attention to the television mounted at the ceiling, where two fifth graders (the morning news crew) came on LIVE and welcomed us to the school.
When they were done with the broadcast, the students came down to the library and gave us a PowerPoint presentation about the school.
They told us about after school clubs including the Green Club, the Spanish club and Karate. They told us about the Gotcha reward system where kids that are great behavioral and academic role models earn gotchas for the classrooms, which then get prizes.
They told us about the special activities the school has like Retro Night, funny hat day, etc. And they discussed enrichment, PAWS (30 minutes extra kids get to focus on either strong areas or weak areas in their days).
It was a nice change of pace to have the kids there in front of us. It gave more of a face to the school. But I also learned quickly when we got to the question answer part with the principal and the assistant principal, there are just some questions that they didn't know -- that got deferred and answered by the kindergarten teachers, of course. But the fact that the principal wasn't sure exactly how a kindergartener's average day would go for a "mostly" kindergarten crowd was interesting to me. (That and holy cow the guys need to get paid more, both of them were sporting some seriously damaged shoes.)
As for the rest of the tour, it was wonderfully pleasant. We were sent around the building with members of the very active PTA. I noticed something really wonderful about Westview. Art was displayed everywhere, and it was beautiful. There were some drawings of monsters and dragons and snowmen in the hallways that I was really impressed with. The art room featured a Van Gogh replica the art teacher had made out of chewing gum!
Westview is one of the schools that is on the wait list for expansion. Apparently in three years they're going to give Westview extra space so that the music room isn't in a portable classroom and a separate gym from the lunch room. Once Carrie Busey moves into its new building, schools like Westview will vacate their homes for desperately needed updates and construction and them move back to the revamped school.
Right now the PTA is raising money for each of the classrooms to have smartboards. We were in one kindergarten room that already had a smartboard. The teacher really loved it. The kids were excited about it. Another teacher was eagerly awaiting hers. She had the projector up, but needed the screen (which was in a box in the office).
Westview is home to one of the ESL programs, too. So if you have any ESL needs, they're one of your choices.
The neighborhood around the school is quiet. John is a wide street, but they do all of the drop off and pick up on the smaller road out front. Westview starts at 7:45 a.m. But they said they had their own buses, students would only come to Westview, they wouldn't have kids get dropped off at one school and then take the rest to another, for example.
The kindergarten teachers gave me a very different vibe. One was very relaxed, laid back and talkative. She was very upbeat and positive. Her room was a bit noisy, but the kids looked engaged and happy. In another classroom, the teacher didn't really seem happy that we were visiting. She was in the middle of a lesson at a table, and was trying to focus the kids to her, rather than addressing the parents at all. The other teacher was exactly in the middle. She was structured, but very kind. She answered a lot of questions, welcomed us into her room, but the children who were finishing snack, including the smallest Freak family member who waved at me, and another one of her Mom's friends eagerly, and doing their "read to another" period were less crazed than across the hall. There were two grandparents working with kids in the classroom, too. I thought that was awesome. Oh, and the kindergarten rooms definitely still have centers. :-)
Overall, I've always liked that Westview is a building built for little people. The grades are mixed up and downstairs, but the classrooms are pretty bright and welcoming. I was there for almost an hour and was glad I got to experience it.