Buckman Arts Elementary, is a K - 5 PPS Lottery Choice option, which infuses the Arts into most of its teaching – as well as a neighborhood school. This means if you happen to live in its district, you’re an automatic in; and if you don’t, you must lottery in. We spent a wonderful Kindergarten year at Buckman & spoke with several parents with kids currently there. Our collective impression:
The Scoop Half-full:
Because Buckman incorporates the arts into the academic learning, it tends to highly engage kids in school & learning from the outset. Assuming your child has an innate interest in performance, music or art, s/he will be excited to go to school – and if you tour, you may very well feel the palpable joy of happy kids in the hallway. Buckman has a full time art teacher who teaches skills, theory, and technique in several mediums. There’s also dramatic arts, music, and dance as separate classes (in 6-week rotating blocks) – and plenty of art activities in the classrooms themselves. Another bonus is the city pool in the basement which makes for a more rounded PE program (in as much as PE is a program these days anywhere…)
Another plus is that because Buckman’s teachers want to be part of an arts focused school, there tends to be a more unified philosophy among its staff, which in our opinion, strengthens the program as a whole. That rings true for the parent community as well – with a significant percentage choosing Buckman through the lottery, they tend to actively contribute in making the school hum.
Buckman also reaches out into the community with its choir, Marimba band, and dance troupe doing shows around town -- as well as hosting an annual Art Show & Sell as examples. The school also partners with local theatre groups for workshops, giving kids a taste of the arts in the professional world.
And lastly, an unrelated-to-the-arts bonus is that the campus is on a nice piece of green in close-in SE, with a lower & upper playground (some of it covered) and large track.
The Scoop Half-empty:
A school’s strengths for some can sometimes be weaknesses for others… In Buckman’s case, some will find that all the “specials” (the art classes) make for a more jumbled schedule that certain kids don’t take to. With the arts classes rotating in blocks, your child may get visual arts for the first 6 weeks of school (twice a week), followed by 6 weeks of dance, then music and so on. During these classes, half the class stays for academic work (in a smaller setting, which is a plus) and half go to their “special,” then they switch. Some kids who need a more consistent schedule to feel secure may not thrive with all the ongoing changes.
Also, by all accounts the colorful, arts-oriented parent population makes for a creative community, which is great. But sometimes it may lack the Type A personalities that can whip the volunteer efforts into shape. This “looser” more “creative” atmosphere has been reined in by a new principal in the last couple of years establishing more operational rules – which some say detracts from the school’s “vibe” while others say it’s an improvement.
Perhaps the biggest downer about Buckman is that the available lottery spots are diminishing. The neighborhood student population is growing at such a rate that spots have shrunk in half in the past few years for Kindergarteners to 20 spots for the 2011-12 year, and to *Zero* spots for all other grades
And finally, as with any public school these days, the bouncing budget means that staff such as librarians, teachers’ assistants and the like are not secure from year to year. So be prepared at the end of each school year for not knowing whether the school you return to in the fall will be the same one you left in the spring…
Agree? Disagree? If you're familiar with Buckman Elementary and have anything to add, please do!
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