Shasta community sympathizes with Rainier regarding their upcoming closure
By Albert Chang-Yoo and Ethaniel Reyes
Recently, news of Rainier’s upcoming closure stirred up conversation within members of Summit Public Schools. Teachers and students from Summit Shasta shared their opinions about the closure, and many felt surprise from the sudden announcement as well as disappointment in the lack of transparency from Summit.
What are the teachers’ thoughts?
Most Shasta teachers were informed of the closure after the news was made public. The junior mentors and teachers tended to have the strongest opinions, as the closure impacted juniors the most.
Shasta English teacher and junior mentor Laura Friday, who has been with Shasta for two years, said that the lack of transparency from the Summit administration had huge ramifications on the people under them. If something similar were to happen to Shasta, Ms. Friday said that she would want to be informed in advance: “Hopefully there would be enough transparency that I would know the writing on the wall before I actually heard the news.”
As a junior mentor, Ms. Friday also recognizes the ramifications this has on the student-mentor relationship for Rainier’s junior mentors: “It’s three years that you’ve known these kids and you’ve built this family in this culture. Then you have to all kind of separate.”
Ms. Friday also talked about her former resident teacher (a student teacher) who spent time under her guidance at Shasta and then got a job at Rainier; due to the closure, she will lose that job at the end of the school year. Ms. Friday mentioned that the resident felt “pretty upset and nervous” about finding another source of employment in the next year.
From Ms. Friday’s point-of-view, this resident teacher was “really committed to her school community” as well as the students she got to work with. Ms. Friday said that the news was “really shocking” for both the teacher and their students, and her former resident found it hard to support their students while also personally dealing with the situation.
Other mentors believe that there was simply nothing else the administration could have done. Kelley Nugent, a junior mentor who has been at Shasta for four years, believes that it was something that was going to happen, despite the shock that still came with the news.
“It was a total shock. But according to some of the teachers I’ve been talking to, they kind of knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when,” Ms. Nugent said. She also acknowledged the faults in the handling of the situation: “The fact that the teachers and students did not know was a misstep on Summit’s part.”
However, Ms. Nugent pointed out that Rainier had still not been given a permanent campus after years of searching: “In all honesty, you can’t make a building exist.”
Unlike Rainier, Summit Shasta moved into a brand new campus during the start of the 2018-19 school year after a lengthy struggle. Ms. Nugent said, “We got really lucky at Shasta that we got this space. We’re really fortunate.”
Mentors like Michelle Mogannam have personal connections to some of the staff at Rainier, making it easier to resonate with the people suffering from the situation at Rainier. Ms. Mogannam said she is friends with a senior mentor who is struggling to cope with the closure of the school.
“I wouldn’t know quite probably how to like, comfort her because it’s just like really sad. It’s like you knew your mentees had to leave in their junior year,” Ms. Mogannam said.
Ms. Mogannam also commented on the quality of education in Rainier that people argue is the reason for the closure occurring at the campus. She mentions how teachers “sometimes struggle” in order for the kids to have adequate access to the learning material. “I think that that puts a lot of stress on teachers, because they want their kids to do well and they love them.”
As for if this were to happen to Shasta, Ms. Mogannam said that she would be devastated: “I feel like absolutely terrible. I wouldn’t even know how to describe how I would feel.”
Other teachers, like Sarah Dayon, are able to resonate with the junior students at Rainier; Ms. Dayon is the AP U.S. History teacher who regularly deals with juniors at Shasta.
Ms. Dayon brought up the strength of Rainier’s community. She said “they have some really strong teachers” and hoped that they, as well as the parents and students, would be included in the decision-making process.
Another point that Ms. Dayon made was that there was a clear lack of transparency from Summit. She said that the need for transparency was clear: “I think it’s incredibly important, right? Because this affects people’s education, their lives, transportation, and how they get to school in the morning.”
Shasta AP U.S. history teacher Sarah Dayon believes that Rainier’s closure could’ve have been handled with more transparency by Summit. PHOTO CREDIT: Ethaniel Reyes
What are the students’ thoughts?
Unlike the teachers, Shasta students were not informed of Rainier’s closure. Many students who were interviewed had not heard the news of Rainier’s closure.
“I had no clue this happened,” Shasta junior Ebenezer Ramos said. When informed of what happened, he expressed sympathy toward the juniors who could have a tough time transferring because of P.E. credits. He said that the P.E. requirement needed to transfer is an oversight of the educational system; however, he argued, “Summit should have P.E. for the sake of the logistics.”
Shasta sophomore Akhil Gunasekaran had not heard about the closing either. He wished Rainier students the best of luck transitioning and also sympathized with the community at Tahoma, “Because now they have an influx of 300 students and their teachers have to deal with that.”
In addition, Gunasekaran said he was disappointed in the handling of the situation by Summit, “It’s very weak of them to make such a decision without consideration for the teachers.” When considering the impact on student-mentor relationships, he said, “I have even more sympathy now that I think about it, because your relationship with your mentor is really important and it’s something that’s built over time. Simply getting rid of it without allowing the students to graduate is really bad.”
Shasta junior Eliana Garcia said that she “feels really bad” for the teachers and students at Rainier. Reflecting on how this impacts Shasta, she said that it is “wake up call”. “Hopefully that doesn’t happen to us,” Garcia said.