Spotlight on Austin schools for how they’re welcoming new students

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Laser tag, flower planting and a jazz concert.

Those were some of the activities organized in the last few months for the hundreds of students who will be attending new schools in Austin because of the CPS closures.

The principals of two receiving schools in Austin – Oscar DePriest Elementary and Edward K. Ellington Elementary – told the Chicago Board of Education at its June 26th meeting what they’ve been doing to smooth the transition.

DePriest Principal Minnie Watson said a number of activities have been held to welcome the students from Robert Emmet Elementary.

Kindergartners at Emmet brought over flowers that students from both schools planted, then they ate lunch together. “It was a lot of fun,” Watson said.

And the 5th, 6th and 7th graders at both schools played a “friendly game” of laser tag and shared a pizza lunch.

Perhaps the most powerful activity, though, was the town hall held for the 5th, 6h and 7th graders, who brainstormed how the new students should be welcomed and integrated into DePriest, 139 S. Parkside Ave.

“They came up with a lot of good ideas,” like not referring to the new students as “them,” Watson said.

“We thought that was powerful.”

Many steps have been taken at Ellington to ensure the right environment is created for the “new school family,” said Principal Shirley Scott.

Ellington will be more than doubling, from about 350 students to a little more than 800. Students from both Emmet and Francis Scott Key Elementary will attend Ellington, 234 N. Parkside Ave.

The older students will need the most attention, the principals said. The social-emotional piece will be key for the middle-schoolers, and they will need extra attention and wraparound services.

“They’re the ones who are going to feel it the most.”

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