Best ideas come full circle

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

There is a saying — everything old is new again. Or maybe those are song lyrics; anyway, you get the drift. It’s the observation that eventually something labeled outdated, no longer useful, and maybe old fashioned resurfaces as a new idea that everyone embraces.

That’s what I thought about when I read that the Andalusia City School Board plans to close Andalusia Middle School and “redistribute” students to the elementary school and high school. The reasoning is that first, it’s a good move financially and second, all teachers certified as elementary level teachers teach in one facility.

Seems there was a lot of analysis done by state education experts before the recommendation came before the board for a vote.

Apparently the analyzing brought forth an “ah-ha” moment and now this “new” idea for housing students is moving ahead.

Funny thing, this plan sounds an awful lot like the way things were when I was in school. In fact, it’s how it was in my hometown before the idea of separating students into elementary, middle and high school came along.

There was an elementary school that housed first through sixth grades; kindergarten wasn’t part of the school yet (that’s how old I am). When students moved up to seventh grade, it was on the campus of the high school, but grades seven and eight had their own separate wing for classes.

Sounds like the plan I read in the paper yesterday morning. As I recall, it worked out fine. And even though we found ourselves occasionally in the same hall with an older student, we escaped any major trauma from the experience. At least I did.

Of course, I realize there was a time when the student population was larger and I guess that is how the middle school concept developed. However, things change and needs shift.

As Mayor Earl Johnson said at the meeting Monday night:

“When you go back to the 1970s and compare the number of students then to now, there comes a point when you can’t continue to have the same number of campuses to serve fewer students,” he said.

So, it appears there is a move “back to the future” taking place and it sounds like a fine idea, a win/win for everyone. Now I’m not saying change is easy or always easily accepted, but change is the only thing that is a sure thing in life.

All of this talk about change and relocating students, in a way that seems to me a jump back to how it once was, got me wondering.

Like revisiting whether it is such a great thing to make reading books a competition. And, do our kids, our teachers, and even our administrators really need the pressure that comes with testing and with what the results of those tests mean to a school system?

We took achievement tests but I don’t remember it being as big a deal as it is these days. It was more a change in the day’s schedule than something that determined the future for your teacher and your school. It was a tool that allowed teachers to see what academic areas were strong and where a student needed help.

Oh, and would adding a bit more art and music to the school day, like we had once upon a time, be another old idea to revisit?

Well I could go on for a long time with this line of thought, but I’ll stop before I sound like one of those people who ramble on about how good things were “way back when.”

Still, I can’t help thinking sometimes returning to an old idea is a good idea.