First look – Westchester Elementary reopensStudents and parents check out the library at Westchester Elementary on July 31. File Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
The reopening of Westchester Elementary stirred up memories for Marc Wisniewski.
Wisniewski sent his kids to the school. He was also on the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education when it voted to close Westchester in 2004.
The former School Board Chairman spoke at a grand reopening ceremony on July 31, recalling how he discovered the elementary school and became an involved parent. After leaving the podium, cutting the ribbon and changing back into a t-shirt, Wisniewski told Decaturish that the reopening of the school was a vindication of the last decade of efforts by City Schools of Decatur.
“It was the right thing to do, but it hurt,” he said, recalling his vote. He added later, “It’s such a nice symbol of our success and it’s also an outcome of our success.”
Enrollment continues to increase at City Schools of Decatur as parents hungry for good schools continue moving into the city. For the last decade it has served as the school system’s central offices. CSD reopened Westchester to create more room, leaving the premises for its brand new offices at the Beacon Municipal Center, which it will share with the city of Decatur.
This year’s projected enrollment is 4,364 students. Kindergarten enrollment numbers are higher than projected, with five more students than the 375 school officials anticipated. Oakhurst Elementary, which lost some students to the Westchester reopening, is still CSD’s largest elementary, with 459 students, according to a report from Superintendent Phyllis Edwards.
After the ribbon cutting, parents and their children toured the school. They met with teachers. They explored the classrooms and the library. Some of the rooms still had unpacked boxes as teachers worked to get ready for the start of school on Aug. 4.
Christian Smith and his son, Christian Smith II, 6, and daughter Aldai Smith, 3, met with the younger Christian’s first grade teacher, Jennifer Querubin.
“It looks great,” Smith said of the reopened school. “It’s pretty exciting to be part of the reopening of a school.”
In the library, Mike Barcik goofed around with daughters Jude Harper, 2nd grade, and Lily Mae, 4th grade. The Barciks are among the families in the Lenox Place neighborhood who were rezoned to Westchester. It won’t be as easy to walk to as Oakhurst Elementary, but Barcik has a few ideas. He suggested a regular “walking school bus,” rallying the students and parents neighborhood to make the 45 minute trek to Westchester.
As Principal Rochelle Lofstrand closed up the building following the July 31 ceremony, she said the teachers are excited about welcoming students back into the school.