Above, Brittney Sawyer, left, an eighth grader and member of Marshall Elementary School's Young Women of Excellence, and Devan Law, also an eighth grader and a member of Marshall Elementary School's Young Men of Excellence, are tour guides for the visitors from Jones Elementary.
Andrew Jackson leaned toward the window, his face nearly touching the glass, and peered down to gawk at the pool tables and TVs below.
“Coolest school ever,” the 10-year-old whispered to himself.
The Carson Family Boys & Girls Club, set in the heart of Marshall Elementary, was the centerpiece Thursday for a tour by students from Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park Elementary. Jones students were particularly interested in the club, and for good reason. Marshall could be their new school.
PHOTO GALLERY: Students tour Marshall Elementary
Jones will be converted next year into the “Leadership Academy,” which will be a school with single-gender wings that will eventually serve grades 7 through 12. With Jones ceasing operation as an elementary school, Toledo Public School boundaries have been redrawn. The Jones attendance area was cut in two; the portion south of the Anthony Wayne Trail is now part of the Marshall Elementary territory, and neighborhoods north of the Trail are in Pickett Academy territory.
Students who now attend Jones will have a choice: attend the new neighborhood schools, or enroll in the district's two single-gender elementary schools, Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls and Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy for Boys.
Jones students toured their prospective new schools to help acclimate them to the new surroundings and aid them in making their decision. It was also a chance for the schools to pitch themselves to potential new students.
Marshall took a mostly understated approach in its tour. About two dozen Jones students were led by Marshall eighth-graders throughout the building on a tour. They visited classrooms to meet students who could become their future classmates. The highlight was the Boys & Girls Club, which opened within the school in 2012.
Principal Marsha Jackisch focused on her familiarity with students and staff. She previously worked at the now-closed Wesfield Elementary on Western Avenue.
“I see a lot of familiar faces,” she said as students filed into the school's cafeteria.
The welcome at Stewart was anything but understated.
At right, visiting students from Jones Elementary watch the ‘Marshall News.’ The video program is a weekly news broadcast created by Marshall students, one of the special activities the school offers.
As soon as Jones students entered the front doors, they were greeted by students and staff who lined the halls, clapping and singing the school's song. They were led into the gymnasium, where Stewart had a program prepared to show off the school’s culture.
Principal Teresa Quinn took a microphone and led school pride chants. She yelled “Stewart,” kids yelled, “rocks!” She yelled “TPS,” they yelled “proud!”
A team of students serenaded the visitors with Stewart-related songs while stomping and clapping along, and finished it off with tumbling and splits. There was rapping about Stewart and presentations about famous African-American women. The entire school joined together for a dance-a-long to Beyonce.
Even the kindergarten got involved, singing a version of “If You're Happy and You Know It.”
“If you like Stewart school clap your hands,” they sang. The whole school clapped.
Angelena Lyons, 10, a fifth-grader at Jones, was impressed by the Stewart girls' confidence. She wouldn’t be able to get up on front of a group and perform like them, she said. The welcome did its job.
“I felt like I was a superstar,” she said.
In the fall, Jones Elementary will convert to the Leadership Academy, with grades 7, 8, and 9 to start. The school will have a boys’ wing and a girls’ wing, with students taking classes with peers of the same gender and having opportunities for co-educational activities.
TPS Chief Academic Officer Jim Gault said parents seem excited about the academy. The district held a community forum in recent days to introduce the new concept, with about 25 percent of projected capacity already signed up in just about a week.
The school will be a districtwide magnet school, so students from across TPS can attend, but Pickett, Marshall, King, and Stewart students will get first preference for spots next year.
Teachers from Jones and the other affected schools voiced support for the academy. Aimee Hager, a special education teacher at Jones, said the school now uses single-gender classrooms for its middle school students, and the setup reduced discipline problems. Still, she’s sad to see Jones close. The district’s lowest-performing school has made improvements this year, she said.
“People don’t see how much growth we’ve made,” Ms. Hager said.
It’s anticipated that King and Stewart will act as feeder schools to the academy. Students who attend Pickett would move to Scott High School, current Marshall students would still go to Waite High School, while Jones students who move to Marshall would go to Scott.