BAMS staff says Guilford transition smooth
GUILFORD -- This time last year, Sue Bos was a Guilford Central School teacher who was staunchly opposed to sending the town's seventh- and eighth-graders to Brattleboro.
But Bos now works for Brattleboro Area Middle School.
And that post has given her a front-row seat to watch Guilford students transition from the town's small middle school -- which shut at the end of the 2012/13 academic year -- to the much larger building in Brattleboro.
"I've done a 180," Bos said. "Last spring, I wasn't in favor of closing the middle school and sending our kids to BAMS. And then circumstances changed for me and I started working there, and I was really impressed with all of the (academic) supports."
"It's not just because I work there," Bos added. "It is because I see what's happening with these kids."
Not quite two months after Brattleboro absorbed Guilford's seventh- and eighth-grade students, BAMS Principal Ingrid Chrisco visited Guilford School Board this week to deliver an update on how things are going.
Chrisco was accompanied by several BAMS teachers. Their sentiment might have been summed up by art teacher Ginny Rockwood, who said she believes the "transition was pretty flawless."
"I'm still not sure if I know who all the Guilford kids are," Rockwood said. "It's just not an important thing."
That might be the best outcome Guilford school board members could have expected when they recommended earlier this year that the town's middle school students should be tuitioned to BAMS.
Officials cited Guilford's declining enrollment and said they believed there were more educational and extracurricular opportunities in Brattleboro. There also were cost savings associated with the move.
At Guilford Town Meeting in March, a majority of voters agreed to send middle school students to BAMS.
There were 21 Guilford students expected to enter the seventh- and eighth-grade classes at BAMS in late August. That number turned out to be a bit low.
"There are 28, and we actually have a 29th student transitioning in within the next month," Chrisco said. "They are broken right down the middle -- 14 in grade seven, 14 in grade eight."
And those kids have been, in the principal's words, "busy" and "quite involved" during their short time in Brattleboro.
"Right now, 25 of the 28 Guilford students are involved in co-curricular activities at BAMS," Chrisco said. "A number of those students are doing dual enrollment in the sports program and the (after school) BEAMS program."
She added that, of the 18 Guilford students involved in sports at BAMS, a dozen "are playing a sport that Guilford was not able to offer in the past."
Chrisco also delivered a list of comments she gathered from a handful of Guilford kids she met with in mid-September. Asked what she should tell the Guilford board, students provided a variety of responses including:
-- "This is a good school."
-- "Everything's going great."
-- "I'd tell the sixth-graders it will be a change and a process but it will benefit you in the future."
-- "I like the kids here and the curriculum."
-- "I only have two classes with my friends."
-- "Don't be scared of a big school, because it's not that big."
-- "We're glad the Guilford School Board made the decision to put us at BAMS."
-- "It was a good move and a good decision."
-- "It's a good middle step before moving into high school. It helps ease our way."
The kids said they liked the "structure," extra help, sports and music at BAMS, among other things. They said they missed "being outside more" and "getting out at 2:20" in Guilford.
Counselors also met with eighth-grade students from Guilford. In a summary provided by Chrisco, those pupils admitted initial difficulties with lockers, the lunch/snack system and opening-day recess at BAMS.
But they also said they "loved the sports," felt welcome and "liked having more students their age."
A larger peer group was one factor that had been cited by parents and officials who favored the BAMS move. Liz Scanlon, an English teacher at the school, said she believes that will be a positive change for Guilford students.
"There are many more kids to kind of find your niche with," Scanlon told the Guilford board this week.
Guilford parent Marianne Lawrence said she already has seen evidence of positive changes for her daughter, both socially and academically.
"The workload, she's doing it," Lawrence said. "She knows she can ask for help -- more than her mother can help her with algebra."
The Guilford board plans to invite parents of the town's middle school-aged students to an upcoming board meeting. In the meantime, board President Carole Mills offered her gratitude to BAMS administrators and teachers.
"Thank you for all of your efforts to make our kids welcome," Mills said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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