spearhead efforts for 6th grade
written by Terri Ogan
Several South Boston parents are frustrated with the possibility of uprooting their children from the Condon Elementary School and sending them to another middle school for sixth grade.
These students are in the Advanced Work Class (AWC) program. Offered in the Boston public schools system, AWC provides an accelerated academic curriculum for students in grades four, five and six.
Each student must pass an exam in the third grade to qualify for AWC.
Once students are accepted into the program, they have the choice of leaving their elementary school in fourth grade and choosing from a list of nine middle schools to attend from fourth to sixth grade that offer AWC. There are about 25 students enrolled in each class.
Students in the program at the Condon School are in a different situation because the school does not have a sixth grade. Parents of those students might have to pull their children from Condon, and place them in their third school in three years. This could have detrimental effects on children, parents say.
“When the kids took the test and got accepted into the program at the Condon, we were told that by the time they got to sixth grade, there would be a sixth grade for them,” said Kelly Conroy, who has a daughter in the fifth grade at the Condon School. “And right now there isn’t.”
Several other parents who have students currently enrolled in the fifth grade AWC at the Condon School, along with Conroy, are spearheading an effort to reach out to city councilors and school officials to make strides in adding a sixth grade AWC in fall 2014.
Conroy and two other Condon School mothers drafted a letter for parents to sign urging South Boston city councilors to support the expansion at the Condon School.
The letter says AWC parents were told there were plans to expand the Condon into a kindergarten to eighth grade school, and these plans included a sixth grade AWC for a likely fall 2014 expansion.
Little progress has been made for expanding the school, the letter says.
“It seems unreasonable and illogical that AWC kids, who work very, very hard to gain entrance into an exam school for seventh grade, would be uprooted for just one year and placed into a school outside of their neighborhood or current school,” the letter says. “The displacement, adapting to a new school environment, new routine, new school hours, and new friends would take an extreme toll physically, mentally, and emotionally on any child, but especially on children who have rather high academic goals at stake.”
If the Condon School fails to add a sixth grade, South Boston parents have the option to send their kids to schools located in Roxbury and Hyde Park, schools that are “too far” from home.
Conroy said that changing schools, neighborhoods, friends and teachers would be “expecting a lot” of 10-year-old students.
“I feel the school department needs to honor their commitment to us, and what they told us and promised us,” Conroy said. “If I had known this would happen two years ago maybe I wouldn’t have pulled her out of this school and sent her to another school. It’s not fair.”
South Boston resident Kate McLellan has a daughter in the fifth grade at Condon and said in some ways, she wishes she never pulled her from her former school in the first place.