To the Editor:
We have a unique opportunity for this community to come together, not just for the good of the schools, but for the good of the people.
The Oak Ridge school system is a big draw for newcomers to the area. When our family chose to relocate to East Tennessee, the Oak Ridge school’s reputation was a large factor in purchasing a home here and joining this community. As our oldest moves through elementary school, I can say this was the best decision for our family.
Oak Ridge is filled with teachers who truly care for their students. And, the Preschool is no different.
The Oak Ridge Preschool is an essential, irreplaceable entity that serves so many families. Two of my children have had the privilege of attending the Preschool and growing through the care of the teachers and staff.
It is important to ensure the Preschool continues and is given the chance to grow.
The only way this can happen is by leasing a building and retrofitting it to serve the Preschool.
Building a new school from scratch is both cost- and time-prohibitive, and renovating the current building appears to be an unviable option.
Dividing the preschool classes amongst the elementary schools disrupts the continuity that makes the Oak Ridge Preschool special and could potentially inhibit the preschool program’s ability to continue to serve the community at the level it is today. At the last school board meeting, it was said that if the preschool is divided to the elementary schools, priority on space will still be given to the needs of the kindergarten through fourth grades.
It is hard to understand how important it is to keep these classes in the same building until you have spent a day at the school. Not only does the school serve its students, it serves many other children from the community coming in for therapy. The logistics of services when the children are spread across the city could be daunting.
These children take field trips together, play together on the playground, and celebrate each other’s successes.
Last year, there was a child in my daughter’s class who didn’t walk. Everyone at the school worked with this child. When we came back from a break, he walked into the classroom, and his classmates were so excited for him and proud of him. But it wasn’t just his classmates cheering him on, it was every adult and child he encountered in that school. He had hundreds of people who were thrilled to see him grow.
This is why the city needs to invest in its schools and renovate a building for the entire preschool to use.
This is why I am asking the members of City Council and the Board of Education to come together and approve and fund a plan for the Preschool’s future.
If we want our children to continue to overcome obstacles and hurdles in life, the Preschool is their first stepping stone.
If we want to see our students continue to succeed and achieve great things, a quality preschool education is a must.
If we want to bring more families to Oak Ridge and see this city move on an upward trajectory, a vibrant, functional preschool is a step in the right direction.