Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School is a four-year-old elementary school in Brunswick, Maine and houses 710 students in grades 2-5. They currently have a 37.5% free and reduced lunch, 18% special education, and a 2% ELL student population all taught by nearly 100 faculty and staff.
“All kids can learn,” is more than a vision at Harriet Beecher Stowe, it’s a way of life for all of the students. Walking down the halls of this beautiful school you feel at times like you are walking outside with the tree-like lights in the hall, Bowdoin College student artwork, and the “Lantern,” a beautifully lit and designed lobby area which looks like a lantern at night. This is a focal point of the main entrance of the school. The walls are decorated with student artwork and “Bobcat Paws.” There are three different colored paw trails around the school. Depending on which color trail you follow, you will walk a certain number of miles around the school!
When talking to Mrs. Jean Skorapa, principal of Harriet Beecher Stowe School, you can easily tell that the community supports this school. The Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department has an office inside the school. This offers opportunities for the students to participate in after school, vacation, and summer activities. The Parks and Rec Department also use the enormous – and GORGEOUS- gym for these activities as well.
Some of the other benefits to being in this incredible school are having access to a full time psychologist, guidance counselors, a Garden club, an official “Sister School” in China, and a very active arts program (the music teacher welcomed me to “Science through Music” class!) They are also fortunate enough to have 3 math interventionists, 3.5 reading interventionists, and 4 additional part time resource assistants! PLCs look different this year for HBS staff. They now include not only their grade level colleagues, but also an interventionist and a special education teacher. This allows for the time spent together to be truly focused on what students need.
Mrs. Skorapa has been involved with Harriet Beecher Stowe from the beginning. She was the principal of one of the three elementary schools that closed when the new building was being built. She had the responsibility of bringing together students, staff, and parents from three different areas of town and helped to build a positive, new community of learners. The parents and community of Brunswick are very supportive off the school and this is apparent by the parent teacher group come together to help embrace all families in need. They have a Backpack Program that 50 families benefit from every week. Parents and some staff have volunteered their time at the Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program and stuffed backpacks full of food for families who may not have enough to eat over a weekend.
When asked what makes Harriet Beecher Stowe School great, Mrs. Skorapa does not hesitate to say, “It’s the students and their families. They are incredible!”
I spoke with two students: a fifth grade girl named Mackenzie and a fourth grade student named Charles. In regards to what makes their school great, the kids stated that “We have really great councilors and teachers who really care about us. They are really nice and when you are in fifth grade they let you sit where you want to in the cafeteria! We also go on really cool field trips like to the Plymouth Plantation.”
In regards to their principal, Mrs. Skorapa, and their Assistant Principal, Josh Levy, they said “Ah! They are so much fun! They give us Bobcat Awards for doing things like being respectful and responsible and every week they pick 20 of us who earned Bobcat Awards and we get to do special stuff like: say the announcements, pick an exercise in the gym, and eat pizza with the principal and two friends. They put the Bobcat winners on the TV in the lobby along with any new students.”
As Charles so nicely put it, “All the teachers and our principals are really nice to everyone.” I couldn’t have said it better. This school has a warmth to it like no other – the students, staff, and families make this a wonderful place to learn.