Changes to Choice at SMS

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Changes to Choice at SMS

Juling Wang

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Scarsdale Middle School has announced the decision to move CHOICE students out of the CHOICE building, which has housed them since the program’s creation in 1974. The building has been an integral part of the 2-year program, one that has been decorated and cherished by teachers and students alike. However, the building has aged, and the costs to maintain it for academic use exceed what the school district is willing to spend. The money spent on repairs can be further incorporated into the CHOICE curriculum.

Some students argue that the education CHOICE offers, an individualistic “school within a school,” will be disrupted by the transition into the main building. Program graduates noted that the change wouldn’t necessarily affect them, but would significantly alter the experience of incoming students. “I don’t support it. CHOICE allowed the kids to have their own space, unlike the main building where everything is connected and intertwined. This technically won’t affect me, but if my younger sisters decided to apply to CHOICE it will affect them,” said Portia Lulgjuraj, 21. “They won’t have the same experience because it will become just like every other house. I’m worried that it will take away the part of CHOICE that made it so amazing, the new friendships you build through the close-knit community.” Those sharing the same sentiment agree that the old building is a major part of the companionship fostered in their years with the program.

In CHOICE, students and teachers work together with a focus on personal growth, self-governance, and community. The program’s values and traditions will remain intact through the move. Students will have their science, math, humanities, and CHOICE studies classrooms relocated to the Makerspace, a spacious area in the Center; they will have a chance to participate in designing a space that properly reflects a positive and supportive community. A removable wall will allow for combined group activities. “For over forty years, the building has been part of the identity of the program.  However, this change has become necessary so we are looking forward to designing a new space that will afford us new opportunities.  As teachers, we have some ideas of what we want to see in the new space and we are already in the process of gathering student input as well,” said Cynthia Parrott, teacher-in-charge of CHOICE. “I believe [students] will see that the extra square footage we will have will be well utilized and their involvement in planning for the new space will create a sense of ownership.”

Parrott understands the views of those who believe the CHOICE building is a fundamental aspect of the program experience.  “I think kids would say they liked having our building solely for Choice, and losing it is almost like losing a bit of independence….  This iconic building with its character and history is irreplaceable.  However, its character comes from age and its age is starting to show.  The building is definitely in need of some repairs and it is a tight fit in here sometimes,” she said. Parrott also noted that the building does “not have a bathroom…, requiring students to go back to Cooper [House] to use facilities.”

Follow CHOICE activities on Instagram @smschoice.