Moving ahead, looking back

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PARIS – Second-grade teacher Anna Wylie pulled a basket of books out of a box and tried to put them on a shelf, but there wasn’t enough space in the nook.

Looking frustrated by this small dilemma, she put them elsewhere and peered into the next box, filled with calculators and other math supplies.

Wylie, along with other teachers at Mildred M. Fox Elementary School in Paris and Madison Avenue Elementary School in Oxford are starting their move into the new Paris Elementary School on High Street.

Boxes line the hallway at the Fox School waiting to be moved, and are stacked in front of the library at the new school waiting to be unpacked.

Inside her new classroom Tuesday afternoon, Wylie planned what would go where. On a long shelving structure underneath the windows, math supplies would go on half, and books would take up the other half. Games for indoor recess would go in the cabinets under the television, she said, and she reserved another set of shelves for her teaching supplies.

At Fox, her room is divided into different sections so students can group and work on different projects. She said she wanted to keep the same atmosphere at Paris, though it would be challenging because the room is so open.

Tuesday during class, she asked some of her students what they would miss about Fox. Though they had been going there since kindergarten, many shrugged their shoulders.

Two boys said they would miss the playground, a massive wooden structure. One girl said she would miss the gym.

They were looking forward to the features of the new school, such as a larger gym, the music room and, for one girl, pink walls.

“That’s my girly girl right there!” Wylie responded, smiling.

While planning the layout of her new classroom, Wylie said she is also planning how to make the transition seamless for the students.

It takes about six weeks for an elementary school student to get used to a specific room, she said, which is why she is trying to keep some elements the same.

“I am missing Fox,” Wylie said. “We have all of that mismatched furniture; it made the (group work) easier to manage.”

The biggest change for the students will be the class schedule, Wylie said. Students might have recess, lunch or literacy coaching at different times in the day.

Across the hall, first-grade teacher Martha MacFarland was working on her room. She said she’s spent countless hours getting things together. On Tuesday, she had a full wall decorated and a shelving unit stocked. She had made a bulletin board decorated with McDonalds french fry containers, and was working on putting together a shelf for her library.

At Fox, MacFarland said she is preparing her students for the move by letting them paint murals on remaining board space and each will write a book about “If I got to design my new school.”

MacFarland said that under the kids’ design, there would be fewer books and more swimming pools.

They’ve also made a list of questions for Principal Jane Fahey, who will come into her class and answer them.

On Monday, several teachers ate lunch at a small table in the book storage room at Fox. At the new school, there is a dedicated teachers’ room with a stove and microwave.

At the old school, hot lunch is dished up in the hallway and students eat in the classroom. At the new school, students would gather together and eat in a cafeteria, and food comes from a kitchen.

Second-grade teacher Heather Hatch said she would miss this casual time with her students.

“I’ve worked in this building for 11 years,” Hatch said. “It’s going to be hard to say goodbye.”

The awe of having a real cafeteria is captured in a sign that hangs by the main office at Fox. Surrounded by question marks, stenciled letters read: “What is the cafeteria like? Will there be a buffet so we can choose? Which classes will eat together?”

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