At Johns Middle Academy, Principal Althea Hammond brought in counselors to help the staff and students deal with the loss over the school’s closing.
This fall, students from Johns and its feeder school, Miles Davis, will move into a brand-new building built for Davis, which will become a magnet school for engineering. Although Johns students generally perform below standards required for the selective school, district administrators say Johns students will be admitted to the new Davis.
Still, students were upset and the staff grew distracted and unfocused when they learned Johns, which is under-enrolled, would close.
Students “were confused and didn’t understand what was going on,” says guidance counselor assistant Mary Jackson, an 11-year veteran. Some students offered to scour the neighborhood and bring in new students, while other made signs and planned a protest outside the school—an idea that was nixed by the principal.
Hammond says the 4th-graders were particularly distressed. They had just come from Davis, now a pre-K through 3rd-grade school three blocks away, and they wanted to know what they had done wrong to be sent back.
Some students were crying openly in the halls, and discipline problems spiked. But Hammond pointed out to teachers that children “would be going to a magnet school, a brand-new school,” with top-notch resources. “I told them that this is what students needed to hear.”
In April, Hammond brought in counselors; she hopes to have them follow students to Davis next year for continued support.
Still, Jackson wishes the closing was not a done deal. “If we’d had more time, I believe we could have turned this school around.