Society’s changing, and schools need to keep up. Tanya Sanderfoot has seen the changes and the needs first-hand, both as a principal and as a parent.

   The principal of Ripon’s Barlow Park and Journey Charter elementary schools was frustrated with not being able to meet the full needs of her students: “Why are kids not being successful? Why are we seeing more [issues with] behaviors? Why are we seeing different things than we’ve ever seen before?”

   She expressed her concerns and desire for change to Superintendent Mary Whitrock, who asked Sanderfoot, “What is your proposal?”

   “It’s really crazy,” Sanderfoot said.

   The plan?

   Transform Barlow Park into a charter school with multi-age-level classrooms that ease up on too-stringent reading benchmarks, focus on placing kids in levels based on both academic status and social-emotional development rather than age, and — perhaps most importantly — create a “play-based learning” environment.

   The idea was pitched by Sanderfoot at Tuesday’s meeting of the School Board’s curriculum and instruction committee.

   “[K]ids are, more and more, feeling like they have no control over anything,” Sanderfoot said. “And they really truly don’t. Especially since they’re not going outside to play anymore. I even look at my own children and there are times where, when they’re playing outside, I want them to play in the backyard so I can see them at all times.

   “When we were younger, we would go around the city and ride our bikes, and just as long as you were home before the lights turned on, then it was OK. And that’s not the society that we’re living in anymore. And now we’re seeing the impacts with the skill deficits when kids are coming in [to elementary school].

   “And we need to start doing something to compensate for that.”

Read the full story, including details of how this potentially could be implemented in a future school year, in the Feb. 15, 2018 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.