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Toledo SMART Elementary to change name, possibly location

By La Prensa Staff


Toledo SMART Elementary School, 1850 Airport Hwy., will soon undergo a name change. The charter school will be known as Escuela SMART Elementary. The school’s growing enrollment also may force a location change by the 2019-20 academic year.


Board president Lourdes Santiago confirmed the name change in a text message to LaPrensa last week. Principal Jessica Molina Kuhlman explained in a LaPrensa interview that a truly typical “bilingual school” teaches at least 50 percent of the time in Spanish.


“We just want our families and our community to understand that we are bilingual in the sense that we are welcoming the Spanish, so we love having escuela in the name because that is Spanish,” said the principal. “It will be another way to encourage the families in the community to speak Spanish. But the term ‘bilingual elementary’ has a very specific definition to it when it comes to education.”


Each of the students receives Spanish lessons between 40 and 80 minutes each day at present. But that’s a far cry from half of the academic day. Right now, according to the principal, the school doesn’t have the capability to do that. So the name change is a bit of truth in advertising.


The new name will begin showing up in marketing materials later in the academic year, as the school seeks to expand its enrollment for the 2019-20 school year. Such a name change is a monumental undertaking, which affects everything from school letterhead to signage.


The current enrollment at Toledo SMART [K-5] stands at 204 students. The school’s capacity is 250 students. There are two classrooms in each grade from kindergarten through third grade. There is one classroom each in the fourth and fifth grades. However, a second fourth grade classroom will be added next year, as a large group of students advances to that grade level.


“We’re running out of space quickly,” admitted Ms. Molina Kuhlman.


That may force school officials to add on to its existing building or seek a new location that offers more space.


“We’ve looked at both options. It’s probably more likely that we would move to a more central location for our families, because we transport all of our students who need it,” said Ms. Molina Kuhlman. “Our students come from all over Toledo—the south side, east side, and north side Toledo, mainly. So we’re looking for a location that’s central to all of our families. But nothing’s been firmly decided yet.”


The school currently serves children in grades K through 5 with an individual learning path geared toward academic growth and character development through a bilingual curriculum. According the school’s mission statement, the long-term goal is “to create competent community-oriented and bilingual leaders.” The school is currently on track to eventually become a K-8 academic institution.


Within its Spanish-English language format, students participate in art, music, physical education, and other academic coursework. Children also have the opportunity to attend Robotics Club and a life-skills focused afterschool program. This is the school’s fourth year of operations.


“Things are going really great. For the past two years, our grade card from the state of Ohio, we received an ‘A’ in value-added,” said Ms. Molina Kuhlman. “That score reflects how much students have grown from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. So our students are showing a lot of progress since being here.”


The principal stated many of the students come to the school behind academically for a number of reasons. But 40 percent of the student body speaks English as a second language. Extra effort is being put into the academic day to help students “catch up” with their peers academically.


“It’s a barrier for us. Our proficiency is not where we want it to be. The number of students who are proficient (academically) is not where we want it to be, even though they’re showing a lot of growth,” said Ms. Molina Kuhlman. “But we tackle that through having a lot of targeted intervention time with our students. So we put support staff in classrooms at specific times during the day and just review skills that they may need reviewed or are from the previous grade. So we really target our intervention time to get them back up to grade level.”


The Mexican Consulate based in Detroit will once again be involved in the school’s annual observance of Día de los Niños in April, 2019. The consulate has donated books to the school in the past, which also serves as an annual fundraiser. The students will sing songs at the celebration.


“It’s really just a day that we celebrate our kids,” said the principal. “We get them bouncy houses. We get them prizes. We get them books.”


This is the first year the administrative team will get a winter break over the holidays. Past years have been spent manning the school office to accommodate families who want to enroll their children between semesters and help the fledgling school grow its student population. Families who want to seek enrollment can email the principal directly at:  jmolina@toledosmart.org.


“Everyone who comes here, walks through the doors just talks about how welcoming of a school we are, how close-knit we are and how it feels like a family,” said Ms. Molina Kuhlman. “It really has a safe, family feel to it. I want everyone to know we are growing and that our academics are improving from year to year.”


That family is growing by a couple more employees. The school is seeking to add two aides, one to help with special education and another in the capacity of English as a second language (ESL). Anyone qualified for either position may contact the principal via email or send a résumé.



Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/11/18 10:43:53 -0800.




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