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Closing classrooms: Relief for Webster, Beech Street schools in Manchester.?

December 01. 2013 3:59PM

If the Manchester school board’s Building and Sites Committee has its way, students at Webster and Beech Street schools will no longer suffer the aftereffects of a 1960’s and ’70’s educational fad: the open-concept classroom.

Open-concept classrooms were constructed throughout the Western world in one of the unfortunate fads that sweep over public education in unending waves. Every few years, some hot new idea becomes the thing to reform the public school and make our children smarter and better prepared for life in the modern world. Then the test results come in, show that it did not perform as promised, and a new hot idea takes its place.

Schools without walls were supposed to free kids to broaden their minds. Kids were somehow supposed to learn more if they were freed from the artificial constraints imposed upon them by the cinder block walls of the public school classroom. It was not long before the concept’s obvious flaw was causing problems for teachers and students: The noise was highly distracting.

Kids could not hear soft-spoken teachers because of the ambient noise from other classes. Teachers were distracted by other teachers. All of this was completely predictable. But when taxpayers spend millions of dollars for a new school, it is hard to explain to them that millions more must be spent to undo it.

In Manchester, the open classrooms in Webster and Beech Street Schools have caused headaches for years. But school officials always dedicated scarce dollars to other priorities. Last Tuesday, the Buildings and Sites Committee voted to make closing those open classrooms the top infrastructure priority of the district.

To move forward, the full school board would have to approve the committee’s vote. Then the money would have to be found and dedicated.

We hope that happens soon. Too many students have suffered through this long-discredited experiment.

Schools Editorial Manchester

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