This morning I sat down with Marie Crawford, Principal of Arroyo School. Marie graciously answered my questions amidst the flurry of activity to get the new school ready for their ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, August 22nd at 4:00PM and the first day of school on Wednesday, August 24th.
Alana: What are you most excited for?
Marie: It’s the excitement in general; I have noticed it with all of the children – they are thrilled! They will come by, peek in and I’ll let them know we are still setting up and they’ll yell, “Thank you!” It’s all exciting — the energy from the kids, the parents, the teachers. To start a school around a unified vision is very exciting too. All of the things we have been working in this district with the strategic plan are starting to come to fruition now. To have it all happen with a new school that has been designed to support that learning is exciting.
One of the most exciting things to witness has been the outpouring of support from not just the parent community, but the kids. Several high school kids came by last week who offered to help and they built something for us. We have an Eagle Scout who is building a Lending Library for our garden. We have Girl Scouts that made signs for the garden, delivered books to the classrooms, lowered table legs, built furniture in the Makerspace, built our entire ball rack and inflated all of the balls with air.
Alana: What has been the hardest part about opening a new school?
Marie: You have to be a project manager for so many different pieces and I am an educator, not a project manager. I had to pull on different skills from past jobs. I had to pull out Gantt charts and educators don’t know what Gantt charts are, but when I worked at The Tech (Museum) I used them. Managing and staying on top of the facilities piece to be a constant advocate for the school has been challenging. The architects might have an idea of something that will work and the builders may have another idea but I would have to envision those ideas and see if they could work practically knowing that certain design aspects won’t work with 4th and 5th grade kids.
Staying on top of the building while also having to order all of the furniture, ensuring it all matches and staying within budget has been difficult. Furniture is very expensive and it has forced me to be resourceful and find very nice secondhand furniture. Luckily I have very good relationships with the different departments in the district – working with facilities and tech has been huge – to work with them to figure out everything is covered and set up properly.
Another enormous piece has been coordinating with Central Middle School; we share a campus and don’t want all of the kids out at the same time – it’s too many kids and they have different needs. Central would make a change to their schedule and then I would need to adjust our schedule to ensure it synced. We also share staff so a big piece has been a negotiation to try and make sure we are coordinated and working together. Thankfully the staff is wonderful and the teachers that are coming over are thrilled to come and work with the kids.
We also have the various needs of the students that is another large component – to ensure we have balanced classes and that we have the very specific learning needs met. This is the more “normal” Principal piece – all of the other pieces have been unique to opening a brand new school.
Alana: What will set your students up for a successful year?
Marie: I think their classroom teachers will definitely play a large role in that and we have amazing teachers. Learning about the routines and procedures for their class will be great. We will have weekly Tuesday morning assemblies to help the kids feel connected. One of the other things we did, because we only have the kids for two years and I was concerned about them feeling a sense of community and connection, we created family units. The fourth graders are in their classroom with their teacher and then will also get to work closely with the fourth grade classroom next door (the classrooms have doors in between) – kids will get to know another fourth grade teacher along with their fifth grade counterparts across the hall with plans to work and connect with them as well.
There are a lot of opportunities for the kids to develop leadership skills so they will have little communities they can become involved in dependent on their interests like Safety Patrol, Green Team, etc. I want them to see they can be leaders in areas they are passionate about. Leadership and community is not relegated to one small offering because kids are different.
Alana: What will not be ready when school starts?
Marie: As you can see we have various projects in process that will be complete. But the Wild Zone and the Play Pod will not be fully stocked yet.
Alana: What is the Wild Zone?
Marie: I think the best way to describe it is like what you do when you go camping. Kids get really resourceful when they are camping and they start to build things about of branches and items found in nature. So, the Wild Zone will be “planted” with natural items like bamboo branches, tree stumps, benches, pine cones, etc. We want them to use their imaginations to build and create in a natural space.
Alana: Are all of the programs listed on the website going to be offered?
Marie: At this point we have a core person running each program listed and some of them are staff positions, for instance, we just hired a parent to run/teach in the Makerspace and most are run by amazing parent volunteers similar in structure to what people are used to with in Art in Action. Some will be part of our core curriculum, some will be an experience in their wheel and some will be extracurricular if they choose to do programs at lunch or after school.
As a parent in this community it is truly amazing to see the Arroyo School come to fruition. As a Realtor, I can share with my clients, this is one of the big reasons why people make their home in San Carlos — the amazing schools and community. I certainly would love to be a fourth and fifth grade student at Arroyo School! I guess I’ll have to wait until my kids attend and I can see it thru their eyes. An enormous thanks to Marie Crawford for her time. I wish Marie, the teachers, staff, kids and parents all the best for a successful opening!