Melissa Shaffer: Smaller schools provide the best learning environment

I am in support of quality education for our children but oppose the school levy to build one new consolidated elementary school.  My reason has nothing to do with money nor taxes. My reason has everything to do with the best learning environment for young children.

I arrived to this opinion after 30+ years of teaching in a variety of states, communities and facilities.

I was born and raised in Bowling Green, recently moved back after a long career as an educator. I attended Kenwood, Conneaut, middle school and high school in Bowling Green. My father taught chemistry at the high school.

Children learn best in environments where everyone knows their name, knows who you are. And if they don’t know you, they know your sibling and if they don’t know your sibling, they know your parents. And if they don’t know your parents, they know someone who knows your parents. No one is invisible. In a small neighborhood school, students have less risk of falling through the cracks. If a student is failing math, isn’t hearing, skips class, quietly crying, etc. Someone will notice and approach the student to help. Individual attention is easily offered.

When I was a student at Conneaut, someone noticed early I wasn’t hearing well. When I was silently tearful during a math test, someone noticed. When I skipped class, someone noticed. As a student, I didn’t always want individual attention but it was what I needed at the time.

As a child, I knew all of my classmates and teachers, inside the classroom as well as outside, and felt accountable and confident. Distractions were limited.

In a large building with a large population, it’s much too easy for an individual student to be overlooked and invisible. As a young child enters through the front door of a huge multi-winged or multi-level building, he will feel intimidated and overwhelmed not knowing who everyone is, not knowing all the teachers, not knowing where his classroom is located. Is this how you want your child to feel as he tries to learn new concepts and ideas? Will he be able to stay focused on the learning content? Will he be self-conscious and shy? Or will he be ready to bravely raise his hand with a question or potential answer?

I want my child to feel comfortable and confident in her educational environment where she knows exactly who everyone is and where she needs to be. I want her to feel like she is in her second “family” and not in an industrial warehouse.

I would encourage the community to put money into renovating and repairing the current small neighborhood schools instead of moving all of the children out of these buildings into one gigantic building. If we need to build another small neighborhood school for the space to accommodate the numbers, then so be it.

I would like to see the community investigate how to maintain small intimate educational environments for our children to learn optimally.  Please vote no on the current School Levy issue.


Melissa Shaffer

Certified teacher of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children K-12

Current Adjunct American Sign Language faculty with Owens Community College