September 9, 2020 510 PM
As the new school year begins, one unlike any before, I want to thank every staff, board and community member that has helped to make Marfa ISD a great place to learn. Teachers and staff are working twice as hard to make sure that every child has the resources needed to be successful. We are ensuring that every student receives the education they deserve in the safest environment possible. Here are a few of the things that we are doing:
- New drop off and pick up procedures to allow for social distancing
- New entering and exiting buildings plan
- Covid-19 screening of all visitors
- Hallway flow of traffic plans for social distancing
- Seating arrangements that allow for social distancing
- Face masks required by all staff, visitors, and students
- Hand sanitizer at every classroom door
- Require frequent hand washing breaks
- Protective screens for each student
- Cleaning out all air filters for better air circulation
- Purchasing of sanitation machines to better sanitize all areas throughout the day
- Bus drivers are sanitizing the bus before and after each use
- Sanitizing every item after student use
- Hallway doors left open to limit touching of door handles
- Water fountains shut off
- Playground equipment is off limits to stop frequent touching
- Frequent outside breaks for all
- Eating lunch in classroom to eliminate large gatherings
While this is not an exhaustive list, Marfa ISD is continuing to research and implement ways of keeping our school community as safe as possible. We are and will continue to work with the local health advisors and adjust our plans as needed. Once again, thank you to everyone that has contributed to the beginning of a great school year.
Oscar N. Aguero
Marfa Independent School District
I am writing to you today about the positive experience I’ve had with the Montessori program, including Ms. Emily’s classroom. She has been nothing but supportive with my child and my child loved going to her classroom. She is always so kind and caring and willing to listen to anything you have to say. Ms. Emily always validated the children’s feelings and made each child feel important. She is one of the greatest teachers I have met. And I prefer my children to be in the Montessori program than in a traditional classroom setting. I feel like my children learn better in that type of environment. And as a parent that helped out in the classroom, I can say it was respectful, kind, caring, understanding and nurturing towards each student.
Living in Casa Piedra for the last 10 years, and raising our children in the Big Bend region for five of those 10 years, we knew we had a big choice to make when it came to their education. We had options: homeschool, Presidio, Alpine, Fort Davis or Marfa. We carefully weighed all of our options. After meeting with Superintendent Oscar Augero, who gave us a lengthy tour of the school and introduced us to two of the three Montessori teachers, we knew we found the perfect fit for our children. We bought a house in town, and quickly integrated our little family into the Marfa community we have now come to know and love, joining both the MEF and MSA boards and volunteering with the PTO. Both our children started in Ms. Emily’s class in their first official year of school. We loved the idea that Roman would be in PreK and big sister Amaya would be in the same class with the “big kinder kids.” It was perfect for so many reasons. Every day our children would come home telling us something new they learned. We were exceptionally pleased that Amaya started reading halfway through her very first year of school. Roman has learned manners and life skills by integrating with older children and Ms. Emily was instrumental in all of this. While we continue to maintain a working relationship with MISD administration, we credit the incredible progress our children have made to Ms. Emily and the Montessori program. Despite the distance learning, we look forward to seeing how Amaya and Roman will continue to grow in Ms. Barton’s class, and eventually Mrs. Aguero’s class. One thing for certain, we moved to Marfa because of the Montessori program. We’ve made a commitment to the Marfa community and to the Marfa Montessori program. We are here to be part of the solution, whatever the Montessori program needs, we’re here to roll up our sleeves and make it happen.
Vince and Stela Fuentez
We were heartened to read last week’s story by Stephen Paulsen on the 150th anniversary of educator Maria Montessori’s birth, highlighting Marfa ISD’s unique public Montessori program spearheaded by Emily Steriti and a handful of intrepid parents and school administrators several years ago. Our eldest son attended Ms. Steriti’s class from ages 3-5 (until the coronavirus interrupted his kindergarten year), and we are so grateful for the opportunity to place him in a safe and stimulating, child-led schooling environment a short walk from our home. Though we have lived in town for 11 years now, when our son was born, we entertained the idea of moving away because Marfa has not always seemed super child-friendly. But we stayed, invigorated by the prospect of sending him to the Montessori program at Marfa Elementary. We do not have enough good words to say about our experience.
Now, with COVID-19 concerns, it is understandable that both parents and teachers would be nervous about opening back up, especially given reports from other schools around the country –– and locally –– that have seen coronavirus outbreaks among faculty and/or students within days or weeks of everyone returning. We applaud Ms. Barton, Ms. Aguero and Ms. Steriti for being honest about the challenges they are facing, especially concerning remote Montessori education, which ordinarily focuses on hands-on experiential and sensory learning. While our family has decided to pursue homeschooling this year with our eldest and remote learning for our 3-year-old, who would be entering his first year in early education Montessori, we will be doing our best to “follow the child” and give our children the same care and attention that they would receive in the classroom … even if we don’t have the myriad “works” (learning implements) Ms. Steriti has accumulated in her decades of teaching and has arranged so thoughtfully throughout the classroom.
Whether or not to send one’s child back to school is a difficult decision to make for some and an impossible catch-22 for others. We wish every parent and guardian the best this year; hopefully we can navigate it together as a community that savors nuance, respects differences of opinion and puts our children first.
Ariele Gentiles and Joe Cashiola
Ariele Gentiles is the copyeditor for The Big Bend Sentinel.
I’m writing in regards to last week’s article about the Montessori program. I have been truly blessed to have Ms. Emily as my son’s teacher. His speech was delayed and didn’t talk much. Being in the program has made a big impact on his transformation. Now I can’t get him to be quiet! He is learning more and making friends. Ms. Emily believes in each of her students. And works with each of them in their own individual need. So a big thanks to the Montessori program and its teachers!
Over the Labor Day weekend, my wife and I took a scenic loop around our area that took us through Marathon. As we walked the surprisingly well-occupied main street, we ran into a group of exceptional young people. They clearly were traveling in a caravan of sorts, as their open trunks exposed piles of top line luggage and nice clothes. The main core of ten or so were stoically scattered in quiet conversation. I approached the apparent person in charge and asked what they were up to and how they liked their visit to West Texas. With a soft handshake and a sad smile she introduced herself as Kurtina. The group was in West Texas to film a documentary. She then related this story, not in shock or anger, just sadness and disappointment.
“To tell you the truth, Mr. Jackson, it has been an eye opener.” One of the cars was stopped by local police in Marfa. Most of us are well aware of the Marfa speed traps, which often leave a lasting impression on visitors. The driver didn’t complain as she freely admitted exceeding the limit by 5 mph or so. Unfortunately, the city police elevated their welcome to the next level. Opening the trunk, checking under the vehicle, requiring all occupants to stand outside the car where they were required to show ID. I have been stopped countless times, but never once has a passenger been required to show ID. After a considerable period of time, Kurtina voiced concern over the purpose and legality of the search. The search and indignities then ended. Welcome to Marfa.
A few of the others had made it to Alpine and had entered one of our local restaurants. After agreeing to a 30-minute wait, they quietly took a seat and a while later were informed the wait might be considerably longer. The point was clear… we really would rather you find someplace else to eat. Welcome to Alpine.
So those are the stories. Judging by my perception of the tellers, I deem them to be pretty accurate. My perception of people is generally spot on. These are top of the line, first rate, sharp, educated, talented, ambitious folks. They will accomplish, remain proud, make our society better. I would bet on it. These young people are the legacy I treasure… They are the ones that will make and keep America great.
In these times of divisiveness and mistrust, why would any among us fan the flames of discontent? Why not be that exception that changes minds? It appears, for some reason, we would rather have them hover in the back seat of the car, afraid to say anything above a whispered, “Yes sir.” Whatever the reason, my mind goes back to 1964. Maybe we should just post a sign: “DON’T STOP IN THIS TOWN.”
The sad thing is, we really wanted to have a valuable conversation with these young people. We wanted to know where and what they studied, all about the documentary project, their dreams and history. We lost all that. We did however manage to apologize for you, City of Marfa, and your arrogant police officer, and you, Alpine restaurant. You had a chance to make a difference but instead you reinforced a fear.
As a child of the Vietnam era, I was raised on fear and hate and war. Apparently we wish to continue that tradition.