What is a rebel? A man who says no. ~Albert Camus
I met with the principal of Vandyke Elementary School on Monday. We had a good debate. She didn't change my mind, and I don't think I changed hers. Here are the things I walked away with after that meeting:
-Plan One was the only plan that had a school library. They are now on Plan Four. Plan One was the plan that parents saw when they came to the school for conferences in November.
-Each classroom will have its own collection of books. These books would also be changed out periodically. "Finger-tip access" to books for children at their reading level. Students who are above or below the reading level of the majority of books in the classroom would be free to collect books from another classroom.
-No official proposal has been made by the school district to the public library.
-The elementary school principal has met with the director of the Arrowhead Library System once.
Mrs. Hoeft has a list of questions that need to be finalized. Questions about funding and allocation of added job duties are on that list. There are a lot of questions about the funding of various parts of this whole plan. I don't know who else is working on getting these answers, but that should get done before the school board finalizes it's plans for the school.
I was told that having a school library when there is a beautiful public library across the street is not taking advantage of the duality of these services. Which I interpreted to mean: it's a waste of taxpayer money to have a school library when a public library can do the same job. Having worked in a public library for 13 years, I know that these libraries play vastly different roles in the growth and development of students. I believe that by closing the school library we are setting ourselves up for a backslide of the great progress we've made with reading in our district. I've heard more than once from people entering the school for the first time about how impressed they are with the importance placed on reading, and the obvious love the children have for it in our school.
Reading level materials in the room is a great idea. For some kids. Once my 2-grades-above-level daughter has read all the books in her reading level in the classroom, she can go get a book from a different classroom. Somehow, I don't see her doing that. If she did make an effort to go find a different book, when would she do it? Would she be bursting into the middle of another class's lesson to find something that would interest her? Would she be going on her own, with no guidance of any sort? How about the kids reading below grade level? I can't imagine a second grader with a kindergarten reading level going to the kindergarten room to pick up a book. There go two kids who aren't challenged, and won't succeed they way they could have with a school library and its variety of materials. There go two kids that the education system at Greenway failed.
For being on plan 4 and only the first having a school library, it sure seems as if the district has made its decision already. There are a lot of unasked questions that still need to be answered. There are a lot of people involved in this sort of undertaking, school staff, library staff, and city staff (someone has to clean up the dirt tracked in). There are also funding issues that need to be decided. When I asked Mrs. Hoeft what would happen if Jane Doe checked out all of the books on leaves a week before the second grade class would be using them, she replied that that is where modern technology; things like Kindles, would come into play. Wow. Those things aren't free. Where is the money for that coming from?
There are many questions that need to be answered. Staffing issues: who will be switching out books from classrooms? Sharing of wireless Internet: who picks up the tab for that? Changing bar codes from the school's system to the system the Arrowhead Library System uses: who funds that, and where will the money come from? Who is going to pay for the added work done by the public library staff? I know that $8,000 was cut from the Coleraine Public Library's budget for the year, so it's not like they've got any extra cash laying around. What happens if the library's budget gets cut so much that library hours need to be restructured? It's happened in many of the libraries in the area. What happens if they need to close for a day a week?
There are numerous studies that show the importance of school libraries. They all point to access to books being a huge factor in how well students do in school. Our students have done amazing because of how much they have been exposed to libraries. Not just one, but two. It would be a shame to cut that exposure in half.
In The Importance of School Libraries; a study conducted by
Keith Curry Lance, PhD, Lance states:
School libraries are a powerful force in the lives of America’s children. The school library is one of the few factors whose contribution to academic achievement has been documented empirically, and it is a contribution that cannot be explained away by other powerful influences on student performance.
It's a misconception that the public library and school library are the same. Our school board members need to be aware that this choice is absolutely not a step in the right direction for our children. I urge you to get in contact with them. Talk to the teachers, principal, superintendent. Click here to get the list of current board members for the Greenway school district. If you're outside of this district, check and see how your school board feels about your school library. Make sure this isn't happening to you.