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Hillside, Brook El prep for transition

District working to make move to fewer schools easier

Feb. 7, 2012

Closing Hillside Elementary to address the Elmbrook School District's population changes and state funding challenges was only half the work.

How to smoothly blend students from Hillside into Brookfield Elementary and give a proper farewell to the closing school are key issues now being taken up by a cross-section of parents, teachers and administrators.

Teamwork

The work began this week with an initial meeting of a Hillside-Brook El transition team. It's part of a districtwide transition team plan for all elementary schools.

"The first thing we did was solicit parents for their input and whether they would like to serve on the team," said Chris Thompson, who is adding transition leadership to his regular district role as chief information officer.

Thompson pointed out several topics within the transition plan, including blending students and classroom cultures as well as determining how many teachers will be needed to carry out the new environment. He noted that an extended Open Enrollment deadline could further complicate how student populations will shake out.

"I think there are so many unknowns at this time from the student perspective as well as how it will affect parents and staff," Thompson said.

Timeline

A timeline of events has been established.

By the end of February, the transition teams will take the responsibility of communicating events that will be held through the spring.

In March, staffing assignments will be announced. In April, plans will be announced for a Hillside celebration.

In May, new family open houses will be held at each elementary school and a closing ceremony will be held for Hillside.

Perspectives

Two transition team parents, Elizabeth Eng of Hillside and Beth Kumer of Brook El, said they hope for a smooth transition but expect the work won't be easy. Both pointed to a survey that will be sent to parents and students of both schools to identify any issues that have not yet surfaced.

"We had a very positive meeting," Eng said. "Everyone is looking forward to working together and blending our cultures. We just need to figure out ways to make the two schools come together. There are so many components. The two PTOs are getting together to figure out how that will work."

Eng noted that both schools have similar special events, but each may call them by different names. It's a detail she feels can be worked out.

"I guess while this is going on, I am trying to concentrate on celebrating this last year of Hillside. That's really important," she said.

While a number of Hillside parents were not happy during the months of School Board deliberations concerning the closing of their school, Kumer said, some of Brookfield Elementary's parent population now may be facing similar anxiety.

"I think some of the concerns involve classroom sizes, busing, traffic and those kinds of logistics," she said.

Transition can be difficult, Kumer said, but she uses her own life experiences as a way to cope. Her family has moved a few times because her husband, Ken, has taken on different jobs for S.C. Johnson.

"We have been used to transition," she said. "We have found that the kids are resilient. And, really, they want to meet new friends. A lot of the students they will get to know they already may know from other schools or church. There is no secret to making this work from one family to another. I have been blessed with children who have been able to adapt. It will be different for everyone.

"The transition teams will do everything they need to make this all work."

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