EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 6, 2014

Displaced third-graders get a warm welcome at Windham High

Golden Brook third-graders move to Windham High

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — WINDHAM — When about 90 Golden Brook School third-graders arrived at their new home at Windham High Monday, a dozen or more cheering high schoolers greeted them with banners and signs.

“It was just very warm and welcoming,” Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said in briefing the School Board on the relocation Tuesday night.

“That was well received by our kiddos,” Golden Brook principal Christi Michaud said yesterday.

The young students also liked their new T-shirts, presented at the high school.

The front has a jaguar paw and says “Junior Jaguar.” The school mascot is the jaguar. The back says, “Class of 2023.”

The ice cream treats probably didn’t make the students miss Golden Brook.

But there were eye-opening moments, too, that took their breath away.

“A big, big hit was the size of the gym,” Michaud said. “We have a gym and cafeteria at Golden Brook that we share. It’s less than half the size of the high school gym. They certainly are blown away by it.”

So far, so good on the move, forced mid-year by leaks and mold problems in portable classrooms at Golden Brook.

“Two days in, I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback,” Feneberg told the board, “from student excitement to parent cooperation and support.”

There was praise, too, for the faculty from their boss.

“Teachers are wonderful,” he said.

A lot of effort went into the move, both on the Golden Brook and high school ends, he said. The superintendent made a point of thanking all involved.

It was truly a community effort.

Michaud said parents, teachers and staff at both schools helped moving furniture and supplies before and during vacation.

“The sense of community was heartwarming,” she said.

The high school made adjustments, too.

Michaud and Windham High principal Ryan Kaplan spoke of how welcoming was teacher Jill Bartlett, whose classroom was displaced within the school. Bartlett’s students greeted the third-graders.

Kaplan said he has teachers from his faculty asking about their students becoming book buddies to the third-graders, helping with tutoring or teaching them science.

“They are asking, ‘Can we do this with the third-graders?’” Kaplan said. “There’s been an overwhelmingly positive response.”

He admitted some Golden Brook parents worried about their children mixing with the high school students.

“From the first day, all they’ve wanted to do is come up and see the high school kids, their neighbor or their big brother,” Kaplan said.

The high school set aside space in the media center for the third-graders.

“They have their own little sub-library inside our library,” Kaplan said.

An open house for parents was held Sunday.

Staff will convene tomorrow about the pros and cons, and what adjustments to make.

Administrators and the School Board are still awaiting more information about the condition of the portable classrooms, but a costly renovation is expected.

Everyone is doing their best to get through the crisis.

School Board member Dennis Senibaldi commended administrators for coping with the trouble.

“They are making the best of a bad situation,” Senibaldi said.

So are the kids.

“They are,” Michaud said. “They keep calling it an adventure, something new and different.”

Golden Brook, and its third graders, are surviving and moving ahead.

“It’s been a great last couple of days,” Michaud said.