LINC ready to grow as Hickman Mills, Center prepare families for changing schools

Families at Johnson Elementary gather for a Donuts for Dads event.

Families at Johnson Elementary gather for a Donuts for Dads event.

The anxious parent who questioned LINC site coordinator Bryan Geddes this spring was worried about just one of the many transitions facing the Hickman Mills and Center school districts this summer.

With the Hickman Mills Freshman Center closing, the parent was anticipating her teen’s move directly to Ruskin High School for the upcoming school year.

But she could have been speaking for a broad community of families facing changes when she asked:

“Is LINC going to be there?”

The answer, Geddes assured her, was “Yes.”

LINC is working with Hickman Mills staff to help ease the families’ transitions as the district closes Johnson and Symington elementary schools and the freshman center this summer.

Families at the Symington Elementary Black History Program.

Families at the Symington Elementary Black History Program.

LINC will boost its Caring Communities programming at the other Hickman Mills elementary schools, which LINC also serves, and LINC will open a new site at Ruskin for the 9th grade class that LINC had served in the freshman center.

“We’ll be another welcoming face,” Geddes said. “Many of the kids have known LINC since elementary school. There’s comfort knowing that people you know are going with you.”

LINC is also opening a new Caring Communities site at Indian Creek Elementary School in the Center School District for the 2019-2020 school year.

Change is coming for Indian Creek as well after Center voters overwhelmingly approved a $48 million bond issue this spring that dedicates $18.6 million to build an entirely new school.

LINC Staff at Johnson Elementary prepare a healthy snack using vegetables from the school garden.

LINC Staff at Johnson Elementary prepare a healthy snack using vegetables from the school garden.

The current Indian Creek building will remain in use in the coming school year while the new school is being built — to open in the 2020-2021 school year.

LINC also has Caring Communities sites in Center at Boone and Center elementary schools.

Overall LINC will be operating 52 Caring Communities sites in six different school districts in 2019-2020 compared to 53 in the previous year.

For Hickman Mills, it has been a year of stress as the district wrestled with financial strain in the face of declining enrollment, shrinking reserves and an unexpected loss of property tax revenue after Cerner Corp. won an appeal against the state that reduced its anticipated tax payments by some $2.4 million.

The Hickman Mills school board voted 6-to-1 in March to close three schools.

Johnson Elementary

Johnson Elementary

Symington Elementary

Symington Elementary

The changes affect all of the districts schools. Families that would have attended Johnson and Symington will be absorbed into the remaining elementary schools. The Ervin Early Learning Center will add elementary grades. The Compass and Millennium schools, which had been district-wide specialized programs, will become neighborhood schools.

All sixth graders, who had been served in elementary schools, will move in with the seventh and eighth graders at Smith-Hale Middle School. And the ninth grade joins the 10th-through-12th graders at Ruskin.

That’s a lot for families to absorb, so the school district has been talking with families and holding “meet-and-greets” at the schools to help prepare for the changes.

“We’re working hard to make sure everybody is familiar and comfortable with where they’re going,” said district spokeswoman Marissa Cleaver Wamble. “We have faith in our building leaders that they will make the transition as seamless as possible.”

LINC site coordinators were also making rounds as the school year closed, meeting district staff and students in the old and new locations.

Geddes toured Ruskin to meet its principal and teachers and extracurricular program leaders to plan the roles for LINC’s new site for ninth graders in the coming year, he said.

LINC-experienced students will be an asset to Ruskin, Geddes told them.

“We do a great job of preparing students to be assertive and take leadership roles,” he said. “The main thing (for LINC in its new schools) is building relationships, building trust and finding our niche.”

LINC will complement the schools’ extracurricular programming, offering STEM programs (science, technology, engineering and math), tutoring, drill teams and chess, Geddes said. LINC will help the schools engage and involve parents and strengthen adult and peer mentoring programs.

And those familiar sights will help families in new schools feel back at home.

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