Unity Welcomed in Claremont
Unity Elementary School Principal Chip Baldwin greets his students on the playground of the Disnard Elementary School in Claremont, N.H. on Aug. 26, 2013. Students from Unity will be going to school in Claremont until the construction on their school is completed. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Giving a wave, Unity residents Andrew and Kelly Parker peek through the classroom door to see how their daughter, Glory, a pre-schooler, is doing on her first day at the Disnard Elementary School in Claremont, on Aug. 26, 2013.
(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
On the playground outside the Disnard Elementary School in Claremont, N.H., second graders from left, Hayden Wojciechowski and Gage Kennedy talk before heading into the school on Aug. 26, 2013. Christine Wojciechowski, Hayden's mother, is behind the boys. The students live in Unity, N.H. but will be attending the Disnard Elementary School until their school in Unity has been completed.
(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — Fifth-grader Owen Taylor stood toward the edge of the Disnard Elementary School playground and cast a wary eye at the building’s doors. It wasn’t the new school in Unity that Taylor had hoped he would be attending, but the temporary relocation in Claremont would suffice, he said.
“All of my friends are here,” Taylor said, shortly before starting the first day of school on Monday. He added that he played rec football and baseball with some of the Claremont students with whom he is now going to school, so even if it was a strange place, he nonetheless recognized some faces.
Dressed in vibrant colors and wearing spanking-new shoes and backpacks, children from both Unity and Claremont gathered on the grounds of Disnard Elementary and Claremont Middle School Monday as the first day of the 2013-2014 school year commenced.
About 115 Unity Elementary School students have been temporarily relocated at the two Claremont schools until construction of the new school in Unity is completed. Although the Unity students are in a different location, Unity Principal Chip Baldwin said their school schedules remain the same — just as if they never left town.
“We are functioning basically as a school within a school,” Baldwin said Monday, of the meshing of the two towns’ schools. “And the Unity staff will treat it as if they are right in their own school.”
Except during lunch and recess periods, the Unity students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade are relegated to separate classrooms from the Claremont students at Disnard, Baldwin said. Teachers do have the option to work together, however.
A similar format is being followed at Claremont Middle School where Unity’s sixth through eighth grade students have been sent. The Unity students at the middle school will occupy two classrooms, which are also separate from the classrooms for Claremont students.
All middle school students will share a lunch period — and some personnel, such as the school nurse, said Paulette Fitzgerald, the middle school’s principal.
The basis for the classroom segregation is, in part, to ease the return of students to Unity when the new multi-million dollar school is completed.
Baldwin predicted that would happen sometime in the late fall.
At the middle school, Claremont students arrived a half hour earlier than the Unity students due to Unity consolidating bus schedules between the two schools.
In addition, Claremont Middle School students attend school from 7:45 to 2:15 p.m., while Unity students at Claremont middle attend from 8:15 to 3:15 p.m.
“The goal was to keep as much normalcy for Unity students and parents as possible,” Baldwin said.
Students at both schools laughed and chatted with one another as if they hadn’t missed a beat. For some, the excitement was apparent, others, not so much.
“And I quote, ‘eh, learning,’ ” said Claremont seventh-grader Zack Laplume. “I was walking here quivering,” he added. “Science and math and all that stuff, eh, learning.”
Lexie Grenier, a Claremont eighth-grader, had a different reaction.
“I am really excited,” she said. “I am just glad to be back and to see everyone.”
Although Grenier said she doesn’t know any students from Unity, she said she is looking forward to potentially making new friends.
Baldwin, the principal, said the plan to move Unity students into Claremont schools was “plan C,” after the prior two plans backfired.
The first plan was to move Unity students into their new school on time and the second plan was to delay the start of school until after Labor Day, in hope that the school would be finished.
Baldwin said in early July, however, it became clear to Unity officials that construction wouldn’t be done in time, and relocating students temporarily would be necessary.
“Today was a very smooth start considering the number of students,” Baldwin said, adding the extensive planning between the towns paved the way for an easy transition.
Roughly 300 Claremont students attend Disnard, and that number swelled to 385 when students at Unity are included.
“The staff has absolutely rolled out a red carpet to our people,” Baldwin said. “And (Disnard Elementary School Principal) Melissa Lewis was quick to put her hand up when they said who wants to (house) Chip,” he laughed.
Baldwin said Lewis even reached out and assisted Unity teachers in transporting truck loads of boxes filled with classroom supplies to Claremont in preparation for the first day.
The Disnard co-principals said Unity and Claremont teachers are already lending hands to help one another.
Baldwin said the Unity teachers are able to learn new techniques and bounce ideas off of the Claremont teachers, which is a support system his teachers wouldn’t have otherwise had.
“It’s so refreshing to see the ‘ah-ha’ moments in adult learners,” he said. “It has created more opportunities for teachers.”
Fitzgerald, the Claremont middle school principal, welcomed the Unity team aboard on Monday and summed-up the what the temporary influx of students was all about.
“We are doing it for these kids; these kids don’t have a school,” she said. “It’s just what you do for a sister school.”
Monday also marked the first day of school for children in the Hartford, Windsor and Mascoma school districts, as well as most students in Newport.
Students in Norwich and Hanover and those attending Orange East Supervisory Union schools start classes on Wednesday, while Lebanon School District students start Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3248.