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Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2018 - 10:26:27

School assesses 'communities' program after first semester
Jan 4, 2018, 10:24

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Crossett Elementary has wrapped up the first semester of its new environmental arrangement known as “communities,” and school officials said so far the year is moving along smoothly.

Those who enter Crossett Elementary — the former Anderson school, where first through fourth graders attend — may have noticed that there is no longer a separate wing for each grade. Instead the hallways are now labeled, Ambitious Boulevard, Learning Lane and Enrichment Avenue. The transition to the communities set up has changed the operational layout off the school.

“We really just reorganized our school,” Principal Veronica Robinson said. “Traffic flows much better now, and activity changes aren’t as chaotic.”

Under the communities setup, first and second grade teachers stay with their students all day, while third grade teachers split duties, with one teaching English and related subjects and the other teaching math and science subjects. The hallways are designated to one of the three communities, and each community has two classrooms for each grade. The fourth hall is used strictly for activities.

The purpose behind the arrangement is to give the students a sense of belonging to their communities, Robinson said.

Once assigned to a wing, the student will know his or her classmates and teachers for their entire time at the elementary school. Administrators are hoping this practice relieves any anxiety a child might feel at the beginning of the year with a new teacher and new classmates. Robinson said the community structure gives the teachers and students an opportunity to get to know each other sooner.

Some teachers said they are already seeing the benefits of the communities while other teachers miss the old days.

“I really don’t think we know enough yet to start comparing the communities with the way it was set up before,” said Kimberly Burkett, a third grade teacher who has been at Crossett Elementary for 20 years.

Burkett said she misses being able to stick her head into the classroom next door and ask a fellow third grade teacher a question, but she appreciates the improvement the system has made on behavior.

While some teachers miss having their same grade level teachers right next door, other teachers said they really appreciate the new benefit of having other grades in such close quarters because they can now consult with different grade level teachers.

Teacher Melissa Clayton said she likes the benefits of both the old and the new, but her main concern with the communities is that she is new to fourth grade and so far away from other fourth grade teachers.

“We aren’t new to teaching, but we are new to fourth grade,” Clayton said.

Although Clayton has a fellow fourth grade teacher in her community, she doesn’t have a fellow fourth grade teacher who teaches the same subjects as she does. Clayton said that the teachers are working to remedy that issue by meeting weekly as a fourth grade group to exchange ideas and offer support.

A few teachers said they are fine with the new community layout, but suggested the communities might work better if the individual classes were divided differently.

Robinson agreed that kinks still need to be worked out, but said she feels overall the communities are going well.

“We knew that changes were going to need to be made,” she said.

The idea came from a lunch Robinson had with the superintendent of the Waldron school district, which is located in north Arkansas, Robinson said. She wasn’t looking for the idea, but it came to her at what she felt was the right time.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve,” Robinson said. “I was not seeking anything in particular but I do feel like we had gotten into a rut.”

--For the complete story, see the print edition.