Students from Sugar Grove Elementary School went to Russell Elementary School on Wednesday to check out the slide.
While many students gave the playground equipment a workout, that's not the slide they were there to explore.
Warren County School District officials have shifted the attendance boundary between the two schools in a move called the slide. By sending about 60 more students to Russell Elementary, the district can reduce the number of northern attendance area elementary teachers needed.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Fourth graders, left to right, Lindsay Finch, Ashley Simmons, and Rachel Frederick show their work during a lesson that combined current Russell Elementary School students (including Finch and Frederick) with current Sugar Grove Elementary School students, like Simmons, who will attend Russell next year.
That change goes into effect in the fall.
"This is a time to be connected with each other so we can better understand and run our schools as a community, rather than as an entity to itself," Russell Principal Patricia Horner said. "A strong sense of community will help our schools flourish."
"This community picnic is an effort to foster our understanding and concern for all Sugar Grove Elementary School and Russell Elementary School families as they adapt to the new attendance area boundary lines," Sugar Grove Principal Marcia Madigan said. "We're trying to make it work. The whole goal is to realize we're all northern area."
Students who will be involved in the slide were invited into classrooms to share a lesson with some of their future classmates and teachers.
Teachers took the opportunity to help students get to know each other. The activities in fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Morrison's class included an M&M and Skittles game. Each student was asked "how many they wanted," she said. What they didn't know was that their answer would determine "how many things they had to tell us about themselves."
In another activity, students had to answer questions about other students, but they could only ask students from the other school.
The daily enrollment at Russell is 237, according to Horner. On Wednesday, 536 people - students and parents from both schools, as well as teachers and district officials - were present for the picnic.
Students as close as a mile and a half from Sugar Grove will be bused to Russell next year. Some of them will travel close to 15 miles to get there.
"They're going to be getting on the bus much earlier and getting home much later," Candy Hall said. "I don't care for it - the distance the kids are going to have to travel, especially in the winter time."
As a bus driver, Hall is familiar with the times and distances involved.
While she is not a fan on the slide, her daughter, Ashley, already has friends in Russell. "Sports is the best thing that has helped my daughter," Hall said. Ashley participates in martial arts in Warren and softball on a Russell-Sugar Grove team.
Ashley's daily trip to school from Chandlers Valley will go from about five miles to about 15.
Rosella Schwartz said her son Noah's travel time to school will likely double. "We're not happy with it," she said. From Lanning Hill, "it takes me approximately seven minutes (to get to Sugar Grove). It'll take me 12 to 15 (to Russell)."
Schwartz is also concerned that her son's class will be larger at Russell than it was at Sugar Grove.
Madison Ingerson's trip will increase dramatically. "I live on the line," her mother, Jodi, said. "I'm about a mile and a half from Sugar Grove Elementary." The trip from Eccles Road to Russell is about 15 minutes, she said.
The distance is a concern, but it's not the biggest for Ingerson. "My biggest upset is it's the last year, then they'll be at Eisenhower," she said. "They're upheaving them and they'll be upheaving them again next year."
This year's Sugar Grove fourth graders will be fifth graders at Russell next year. They will then go to Eisenhower Middle High School for sixth grade.
Samantha Stine, a third grader at Sugar Grove who will attend Russell next year, is accustomed to new schools. Asked what she thought of attending Russell in the fall, she said, "I think it's great."
Her pen pal, Eva Turner, is the only friend she has at Russell so far. The two have written back and forth about 10 times this year.
Samantha's mother, Jaymie, said Russell will be her fifth school in as many years.
"I'm still undecided," Jaymie Stine said of the latest change.
All of the parents agreed that holding the community picnic was a good step.
"Definitely," Schwartz said. It gave her and her son the chance to meet the teachers, see the classrooms, and spend time with other students.
"It was a very good idea," Ingerson said. It was more important that the event work out to her daughter's liking, though.
"I'll feel better after I talk to Madison and see how she feels about it," she said.
"I like the idea of being able to come through the door and not be completely blinded not knowing what's going on," Hall said.
In general, it was a good chance for Sugar Grove students and their parents to "see what the school is like and what they're going to come into," Stine said.