(City and Borough of Juneau photo)

My Turn: Figure out new possibilities from district restructuring, rather than trying to fight it

My children are 8 and 9. Both have been fortunate enough to attend Montessori Borealis since they were 3. This school year, my 9-year-old got a spot in the TCLL program. Even though it was a transition we wanted, it was still scary because of all the unknowns. It was a new bus schedule, new building, new routine, new curriculum, new teachers and new friends. We had to have several conversations over the summer and through the first few months of school.

With both of my kids in optional programs, it has become clear that they will not be in the same buildings next year. But I take comfort in knowing that the school communities of staff and peers that they have built around them will continue no matter where they physically are. What I love about the optional program is that the same cohort of kids stay with the same teacher over multiple years. If the pupil-teacher ratio is going to increase, I would love to see this multi-year cohort implemented across all elementary schools to help strengthen those classroom relationships and cut down on challenging behaviors. I would also love to see the district implement an organized/formal volunteer corps for family members to help on a consistent basis.

Part of my work as an early childhood educator has been preparing children and families for that transition from one program to another. As I have read all the frustrations of people over the looming school consolidation for next year, I can see clearly that anxiety over the unknown. But with change, there also comes opportunity.

If the K-8 optional programs do end up in Dzatik’I Heeni, there isn’t a playground. But there could be an opportunity to apply for a grant for a culturally responsive playspace that would also serve the families who live in that area. If Thunder Mountain becomes the sole high school, opportunities can be created for them to go to JDHS to take advantage of the CTE facilities and mentor the MS students/younger optional program students. If the middle school buildings do close, the cohort of kids and teachers can still be put together to ease that transition. If Thunder Mountain does become the sole high school, seniors who would have graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kale next year can still have a separate graduation ceremony to recognize their cohort.

I would implore our community instead to get out of this unproductive loop of frustration over what has happened or what will happen. Instead let’s start looking ahead at what could be and start brainstorming a list of ideas on how to make the best of this unfortunate situation.

• Supanika Ordoñez lives in the Twin Lakes area and has children who are second- and third-grade students. She is a former Head Start and elementary teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education.

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