Come this fall, the third graders at ol will trade places with the fifth graders in the name of safety.
That’s because the Board of Education, after fielding concerns from parents over the last couple of years, decided that third graders, currently housed in the school’s campus buildings, will be moved under one roof in the school's main building. The fifth graders, in turn, will move from the main building into the campus buildings, which are separate classrooms located up a steep hill, alongside the school.
The move is slated to take place over the summer, said school board Chairwoman Rose McKinnon.
“The concern has been the transition of the younger students going from being all under one roof (in grades K-2) to the campus buildings (at OCS),” McKinnon said. “Parents have always been a little apprehensive.”
Oxford Center School houses students in grades 3-5.
McKinnon said the board wanted to make the move happen last year, but since that didn’t happen, she said plans are in the works to make the switch a reality once the current school year ends.
"Our goal here is more for transitional purposes,” she said. “I can relate because my kids went there, too.”
The board has heard complaints from parents, many who have expressed concerns about the third graders having to lug heavy backpacks up the hill, braving the elements, the potential of falling and how they are outside of their comfort zone of being housed under one roof as they did in second grade, she said.
McKinnon said the move makes sense since fifth graders, in general, are bigger in size and more mature, and would have an easier transition than the younger children.
“It’s also a pretty long walk (to the campus buildings) for students who have come from being under one roof,” McKinnon added. “I understand parents are concerned about that. But the school campus is very safe.”
She said any time third graders leave the campus buildings, for example, and need to go to the main building for gym or lunch, they are always accompanied by their teacher. And if a student needs to see the nurse, an adult monitor, equipped with a walkie talkie, accompanies that child from the campus building to the main building.
“It is safe, and we do have a monitor up there who directs the students,” McKinnon noted.
Monitors also accompany students if they have to be dismissed early from school, she said.
The campus buildings were originally placed at the school several years ago on a temporary basis to handle an influx of pupils, McKinnon said. But, she said, the campus buildings have remained out of necessity to accommodate a growing student population.
Moving the younger children to the main building is a relief for some parents, including the mom of an incoming third grader, who wished to remain anonymous.
“The kids are too young and too little to be expected to use the pods for their classrooms,” she said. “They are too far away from the main building and it creates issues with having them remember to carry their lunches down to the main lunch room. In bad weather, they have to dress up and dress down each time they change classrooms, and at that age they are a little slower at getting that done.
"They are coming into an environment where everything is under one roof and the classes are close together. If any grade has to be the one using those out-buildings, it should be the older kids who are familiar with the environment and are used to being at (OCS), are a little wiser and a bit more mature to handle the elements.”
Another mom, who also wanted to remain anonymous, said she, too, had similar concerns when her daughter was a third grader at OCS.
“I never understood why they had the third graders up there, and I absolutely agree that it’s a great idea to move them,” the mom said. “Plus, I was always concerned about the (smaller) kids having to walk up that steep hill, where they could slip and fall. Bigger kids are a little more aware of their surroundings, and a bit more mentally prepared than a third grader.”
The mom also noted she was concerned about the campus buildings so closely bordering the woods, which are not fenced in.
“With the woods right there, what would stop someone (from the outside) from walking right into the building,” she said.
Oxford Center School Principal Heath Hendershot declined to comment for this article.