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Smooth Transitions

Bon Air Students Settle Into New Learning Environment

This September, Bon Air Principal Amy Lenart experienced one of the smoothest starts of school in her six years as an elementary school principal, despite the fact that the elementary program was restructured. “This school year is going really, really well due to planning the district’s been doing for the past year and a half,” says Ms. Lenart, who previously served as principal at Stewart Elementary School.

Burrell School District has dissolved its previous configuration of having two K-5 neighborhood elementary schools. Now, all of the district’s K-3 students attend Bon Air Elementary, while students in grades 4-5 go to Stewart Elementary. The change will maximize the effectiveness of Burrell’s staff and resources, and allow K-3 students to gain a solid foundation in literary skills before moving on to Stewart, where the focus is on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Third grade students who attended Stewart as second-graders last year seem to be thriving, despite being nervous about switching buildings. Drew Farneth admits he was a little bit apprehensive about starting third grade in a new school, but says that seeing just how many former Stewart students are in his class helped his anxiety. “I don’t feel scared anymore,” Drew says. “I like my new friends, and my new teacher, Mrs. (Nicole) Heasley.”

Messias Key was very enthusiastic about the challenges the elementary restructuring might bring. “I was excited to meet new kids and new teachers,” he says. Messias is a student in Mrs. Barbara Foust’s class. When asked what he likes best about his new school, Messias quickly rattles off a list of classes, including math, spelling, and English as a Second Language (ESL). Messias was born in China. He also likes the layout of the Bon Air library. “It has all of my favorite books,” he says. “It’s not hard to get used to the school. I like this place.”

Evvy Blatstein was shocked to learn she’d be attending Bon Air this year. “I thought I’d spend all of my years at Stewart,” she says. “But I thought it would be cool to meet new friends and see what the Bon Air building looks like.” Evvy, who is in Mrs. Lisa Gural’s class, approves of her new school, noting that the new playground is her favorite feature.
Rather than worrying about the unknown before starting the school year at Bon Air, Lindsey Hecker focused on what her new role would be at her new school. “We get to be the ‘big’ kids and the role models,” she says. As an upperclassman in Mrs. Ann Toy’s class, Lindsey is anticipating new opportunities. “The older kids in the school get to do cool things,” she says. Lindsey reads morning announcements and is hoping to go on some new, exciting field trips. Her one concern was getting lost in the larger building. Lindsey armed herself with a map to navigate Bon Air’s halls and relied on the helpfulness of Ms. Lenart and the teachers.

The staff’s teamwork has helped the transition go smoothly, Ms. Lenart says. “The teachers are doing an outstanding job, with grade-level meetings to collaborate, plan and discuss the curriculum with colleagues,” she says. With the day-to-day operations running smoothly, the teachers and staff can focus fully on the students’ competency and progress, including a new initiative entitled WIN (What I Need), which is designed to strengthen literacy skills with individualized attention and targeted, differentiated instructional opportunities.

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