Two Elementary Schools Come Together

“A struggle but not a fear”

By: Abigail Christman

Last spring there was a large school board meeting. The meeting was to discuss combining what was known as Western Salisbury Elementary School (WSE)  and what was known as Harry S. Truman Elementary School (HST)  into Salisbury Elementary School (SES). The plan was to combine Western Salisbury and Harry S. Truman into one school because of budget issues and what was best for the school district. It was voted on and decided that they would move all the teachers into one school, SES, keep kindergarten through fourth grade in SES, and move fifth grade to Salisbury Middle School (SMS).

“My biggest concerns were the physical space needed due to an increased number of students and also creating a new school culture,” said Mr. Brem, SES principal. In the midst of a pandemic where you need an extra six feet between students as well as space for the teachers this was also a major concern for Mrs. Long, a first grade teacher at SES. Mrs. Deoliveira, a fourth grade teacher at SES, had no fear with combining the schools. She said, “I personally did not have any fears combining the schools. I was upset that we didn’t replace the teachers who retired, and some teachers had a new role this year.” She also said, “I hoped we all could fit in the building together, it was a struggle, but not a fear, to pack up a room and move to a new building.” Most teachers struggled with understanding how space would be administered to students. Teachers like Mrs. Deoliveria had to leave behind a room she’d been in for so long.

Mr. Brem had nothing but nice things to say about his staff; he even said, “Our staff has been immersed in change for the past year. They’ve adapted so many times that I can’t keep count.” With the pandemic taking place and then having to go to a new building while worrying about their families at home, teaching in a mask, and meeting many new students, it must’ve taken a large toll on the SES staff. 

An advanced mathematics teacher from Salisbury High School as well as a parent of two children in the Salisbury School District, Mr. Ruiz, had a negative reaction to combining the schools. He said, “I was kind of sad on one hand because I think it is nice to have an elementary school that is close to both sides of town,” but also said, “From a financial perspective, it seems excessive for our district to have two schools if we can do it in one.” If you think about it with a financial state of mind, it’s like having two cars for one person; it’s just unnecessary to spend all that money when it’s not needed. When asked if he was affected by the change he said “I’m not sure I am seeing the effect. It must be much more difficult for my colleagues in the K-6 range.”

Mrs. Long was a second grade teacher who just moved to first grade with this new move. In the classroom she said that her students are doing very well and making new friends. She felt that the administration had an “extremely difficult decision to make with all the limitations they were facing. They did the best thing they could do facing the current financial situation.” Because there were many financial issues she also said, “As unfortunate as the closing of a neighborhood school is, it was a better solution than finding the money by increasing class sizes and laying off more teachers.”

Mrs. Schey is a kindergarten teacher at SES. She was extremely concerned about having all the students in one school during a pandemic, but was very grateful that they began virtual and stayed virtual until January. She said, “One thing, however, that has been a challenge for kindergarten students and teachers is being in much smaller classrooms.” The kindergarten classrooms are small and the classes are larger, but there is enough room for social distance. She ended her responses by saying, “My team members are all prior HST teachers, but I am on committees with teachers previously at Western, and everyone is extremely positive and passionate about working together for the benefit of everyone involved.” There were so many bigger issues with this pandemic that the teachers have decided to put the safety of the students above their opinion of combining the schools. 

Even with the current way the pandemic is affecting the country, the parents, “have been so supportive and wonderful with everything,” said Mrs. Long. Mrs. Deoliveria said she has not had any repercussions from the parents but, “I attended board meetings throughout the process, so I know that parents were not happy about combining the schools. It doesn’t seem that big of an issue now.” I can only imagine how parents were feeling but I do know that the parents of kids going to middle school as fifth graders were fearful of what their child was going to hear on the bus. 

This move was frowned upon by some, but with the support of the students, parents, teachers, and administrators, they’ve all made it much more welcoming and positive in the end.