The Ford School

Posted on May 22, 2009

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You probably already know that the Robert L. Ford School in the Highlands is a NASA Explorer School. In August 2007, the media reported on students chatting live with astronauts on the International Space Station. But did you know that the book “Becoming a Community School,” published by the nonprofit Project for School Innovation in Boston uses the Ford school as a model for how to establish a community school?

What is a community school you ask? A community school reaches out to the surrounding community primarily  to involve parents more intimately in the education of their children, but also, I think, to enrich the community in other ways. A few of the ways the Ford School does this: 

  • holding evening ESL and computer classes for parents
  • hosting meetings of the Highlands Coalition neighborhood group
  • being the site of an organic garden where school subjects such as math, biology and history can be taught in a hands-on environment and vegetables from residents’ native lands can be grown
  • partnering with Cohen Hillel Academy in Marblehead for a “reading buddies” program and outings to plays and other cultural events.

As a brochure from the school’s website puts it, “The Robert L. Ford K-8 School is a year round school. Our doors are open from 7:00AM until 9:00PM.  The educational model is a ‘neighborhood village with the school at the center.'” 

All of this is why principal Claire Crane and parents of children who go to school at Ford object to the closing of the Ford School Annex. Dr. Crane likens the planned closing to “dismantling the model.” Parents and children value the continuity of a K-8 school. Certainly, there are arguments pro and con, but what do you say when Harvard, MIT, Salem State and NASA have all written letters objecting to the closing?What do you say to the 5th and 6th graders who have written letters pleading for the annex to remain open?

All I know is that the Ford School seems to be the heart of the community. Whether this fact only matters to that community or to the city at-large is another question. The way I see it, more communities should be clamoring for public schools like the Ford.

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Posted in: Education