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Administrator says school transition has been flawless

October 14, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - The sign out front may still say Funkstown School but starting this year, it really is the Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education.

And while Susan Burger is the only administrator in the building, her title is managing assistant principal.

Burger said with those differences explained and out of the way, there is only one more thing - only children from pre-kindergarten through first grade are in the building.

Oh, and kindergarten is all day.

Any questions?

"Years ago, we had thought about doing this," Burger said, drawing on her 25 years of teaching experience in Washington County elementary schools. "I was very interested in this concept and decided the opportunity to come here was too good to pass up."

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Funkstown and Emma K. Doub elementary schools now are teamed under one principal, Sonya Barnes, who spends her days at Doub where children in grades two through five are in classes.

Doub, which is located on Sharpsburg Pike next to South Hagerstown High School, is the magnet school in this relationship.

As the "experiment" heads into its second month, Burger said she has nothing but praise for how things are going so far.

"It's working well, both with kids and with the teachers," Burger said. "We have a very experienced staff here."

The beginning of all-day kindergarten at Funkstown also is new this year.

"There are four classes here and the transition has been flawless. The kids have adapted well," Burger said.

Two half-day, pre-kindergarten classes are held, as well as four all-day classes of first-graders.

After much discussion and input from parents, it was decided to keep the bus schedules the same so siblings could continue to ride together, Burger said.

The immediate benefit of splitting the classes has been that more age-specific resources and staff can be concentrated at each site instead of spread thinner for all ages at both schools.

There were lots of moving trucks, taking materials back and forth from Funkstown to Doub as the school year began but now everything is settled, Burger said.

"The two schools share art, music and media teachers, who travel between sites," Burger said. Then when the Funkstown youngsters go off to Doub for second grade, they will have the benefit of continuity and already knowing many of their teachers.

She said it is a thrill standing outside the school greeting more than 200 kids each morning. And even when she is in her office, she revels in keeping in contact with youngsters.

"I was going to put up a new bulletin board in my office but it would block the window to the hall," Burger said. "I would miss the kids coming by and waving at me."

So far, Burger said she is just as thrilled with parent involvement at the school.

"That relationship is fabulous here," she said. "There was standing room only at the open house, where people felt free to ask all kinds of questions."

Another offshoot of that involvement is a reading tutoring program that is scheduled to start very soon. Parents and grandparents have been signing up, she said.

A Hagerstown native, Burger went to Lincolnshire Elementary, South Hagerstown High School and is a graduate of James Madison University in Virginia. She and her husband, Joe, live near Smithsburg with their daughter, Emily, 15.

Last year, Burger was the coordinator of the Judy Center at Bester Elementary School, which operates under a state grant to prepare at-risk children for school.

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