The 2013-2014 school year is over, and I thought it would be a good time to check in with Hale Cook Elementary. This Waldo area school reopened last fall, pushed back into existence due to a grassroots effort from neighborhood activists and families. I recently met with Susan Stocking and Paul Bartel, two members of the Friends of Hale Cook group, who told me about the first year and what to expect in year two.
Hartman Elementary at 8111 Oak was host to the first classes of Hale Cook students. The kindergarten class was full (just under 20 students), and first grade had about ten students. For the 2014-2015 school year, classes will take place in the actual Hale Cook building at 7302 Pennsylvania. There will be two preschool classes (tuition based); two kindergarten classes, one or two first grade classes and one second grade class. (Enrollment for the coming school year is still open). Eventually the school will grow to 365 students up to the sixth grade. Over the past several months, the KCMO school district and parents been getting the building ready to open in September: there are new chairs and desks, mobile computer stations, a reconfigured secured entrance and a new HVAC system. Outside, the grounds have been cleaned up, plus fruit trees and a community garden have been planted. Organizers have sponsored several events to get neighbors and the community involved: Garden Planting Day, Kite Day, a bike/walk to school forum, etc. Anyone can pitch in and participate–not just parents and students!
Recently Julie Lynch was hired as the Hale Cook principal, and she will be involved with hiring teachers for the upcoming school year. Ms Lynch is very familiar with Hale Cook as she has been the key liaison between the school and the KCMO school district administrators. There is a reception for Ms Lynch tonight, Thursday May 29 at the school from 6-8pm–current and prospective school families are welcome to stop by and meet her.
It is amazing how far Hale Cook has come towards its goal of becoming a neighborhood school. The entire project was started by community volunteers and continues to thrive because of the dedicated parents and volunteers that make each step happen. Hale Cook offers just about everything a more ‘established’ school has: special classes for music, art, gym; social services such as speech therapy; a cafeteria, auditorium and bus services. Because the school is just getting started, the classes are small; access to information is easy, the sense of community is strong. Everyone seems to know everyone else. Hale Cook also has a defined mission and purpose, outlined in it’s School Culture Blueprint. This document outlines behavior policies, academic achievement goals, and parent engagement expectations.
Although my two girls are past elementary school age, I am very excited about Hale Cook. Having additional school choices for parents in our area is important to keeping residents for the long term. Successful schools can anchor a neighborhood–and Hale Cook is an important asset to Brookside/Waldo families. Read more about Hale Cook at their website or check out their Facebook page…or stop by the reception this evening.