A letter to the Editor from a BISFA Parent
To the editor:
USA Today recently reported the news of a recent survey of high school students. The survey found that kids consistently reported negative feelings about their schools. And according to the researchers, those negative feelings can influence young people’s “attention, memory, decision making, school performance and social lives.”
Clearly we’re not doing a very good job of creating learning environments that foster happy, productive, motivated and, most importantly, successful kids. That all could change. Our small, mostly rural county has the chance to take a national stage, leading the nation in a unique vision for educating high school students and changing the way students view their schools and their futures.
The stage was set several years ago when a handful of forward-thinking people first conceived the idea of a boutique arts school in the heart of downtown Hagerstown. Since Barbara Ingram School for the Arts opened a few years ago, it’s attracted a national spotlight. In 2014 and 2015, it was recognized for academic excellence, garnering honors as one of best high schools in the nation.
The concept of educating children in small, specialty schools goes far beyond this downtown arts school. Small, highly focused schools give us an opportunity to engage children in their own education. It lets them have a voice in what they want to study and who they want to be. Research shows that smaller schools have higher morale, more extracurricular activities, and are easier and less expensive to govern. Most importantly, this format moves us away from large, industrial-sized high schools with the inherent problems of drug and alcohol use, bullying, gang violence, truancy, unplanned pregnancy and failure to graduate.
Small boutique schools are personal. Small classes mean lots of time with teachers. It’s hard to fall behind with that sort of attention. It’s hard not to excel. And that’s what makes them extraordinary.
I’m hoping the citizens of Washington County will recognize the opportunity what an academic hub of these schools would bring to our community. Education is the great equalizer. It puts our kids on the same footing as those from Montgomery or Fairfax counties. Most importantly, it is the only way to ensure a strong and inventive future economy. Investing in the kids of this county not only benefits those children and their families, it ensures that Washington County has a future as well.
The reality is the downtown Hagerstown economy is dying. And no amount of pop-up shops and “Wind Down Fridays” is going to change that. Frederick is successful because its economy draws on strong consumer support, which is based primarily in the Washington metro area. Put simply, Frederick patrons have the money to spend; Hagers-town and its outlying areas do not.
Washington County is not a wealthy region. It lacks Frederick’s resources. But what it does have is kids. And those kids have dreams. Let’s invest in the downtown academic hub so we can better foster those dreams and, in the process, realize some of our own.
Barbara Vann, Knoxville, Md.