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Choice Program to Move into Scarsdale Middle School

choiceScarsdale Middle School’s CHOICE program has often been celebrated for its inherently unique and independent nature. Yet a few months ago, the district announced that the CHOICE program would be moving into the interior of the middle school. Although the program will be moving merely a couple hundred feet, the implications on the student body are sure to run deeper.

CHOICE has been based in a former estate carriage house on the outskirts of the main middle school building for years. However the building is nearly 100 years old and is no longer compliant with ADA standards. The building also lacks a bathroom, so students regularly have to leave CHOICE to find a bathroom in the main building. If the CHOICE program were to continue as usual, the district would be faced with extremely expensive repairs and upgrades to the building.

In lieu of these repairs, the district chose to move CHOICE into two connected classrooms (the seventh grade health room and the speech room) and the Makerspace in the lower center.

There are many reservations about CHOICE’s move. “A big thing all Choice students are concerned with is having a space they feel like is their own. When we were in a separate building that was easy to accomplish. That will be the most difficult part to replicate when we move to the main building,” said Cynthia Parrott, CHOICE’S math teacher and Teacher-in-Charge.

Seventh grader Harrison Lambert commented that at first, many students felt confused and upset over the change. “The CHOICE building feels like our home now… you can tell how relaxed and used to the building that everyone is, and it’s sad to leave,” said Lambert.

However, the move will certainly bring many social and educational benefits for the students in CHOICE.

Lambert noted that better integrating CHOICE into the main building would help with the social transition to high school. “In the eighth grade, many of the kids say that ‘I’m moving into the high school and I’m not that good friends with people in the main building’ … it’s important for us to make stronger connections with the people in the building because if you’re only friends with the other 23 people in CHOICE, then there’s not even that good of a chance that you’ll get into many of the same classes as them in high school,’” said Lambert.

CHOICE will takeover the current makerspace --a newly finished technology room: filled with computers, iPads, laptops, soldering irons, and other technology tools. Given CHOICE’s emphasis on hands-on learning as well as science and math, further access to this space will prove invaluable.

Having all CHOICE classrooms in such close proximity to each other will enable the teachers to maintain the program’s close-knit community. The district is also in the process of planning a removable wall between the two classrooms CHOICE plans to take over “so we can have a large space for full group experiences that happen almost daily,” said Parrott.

New furniture and equipment has already been ordered to suit the needs of CHOICE’s unique Science and Humanities programs, and other renovation ideas are still in the process of being discussed. Parrott noted that many of these renovation suggestions came directly from students: a true testament to the collaborative environment within CHOICE. “Between the Choice students and the staff, we have some great ideas to make the space fit the program so much more effectively than our current small building does,” said Parrott.

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