New Waverly school coming

Waverly Elementary/Middle School Principal Michelle Ferris stands in the excavation site for the new, $25 million school that is scheduled to open in mid-to-late 2013. (Photo by Karen Jackson / May 25, 2012)

Oakenshawe students are zoned for nearby Waverly Elementary/Middle School, where a $25 million replacement school is slated to open by the end of 2013.

But children from Oakenshawe are nowhere to be found at the current campus, located in two buildings a block apart.

"There's zero students from Oakenshawe," said Mark Counselman, president of the Oakenshawe Improvement Association and a father of three.

Andrew Stiller, the school's community school site coordinator, closed his fingers in the shape of a goose egg, and said there haven't been any Oakenshawe children attending the school in his three years there.


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"Oakenshawe's tough," Stiller said.

Convincing parents from Oakenshawe to send their children to public school in Waverly instead of to charter, private or parochial schools is emerging as a challenge for supporters of the new school. Supporters say there's a perception that the school lacks resources, discipline and a rigorous curriculum and is in a crime-prone area.

That's why, more than a year before the rebuilt school opens, Waverly parents, area community leaders and elected officials are already hard at work trying to change any such impressions. A steering committee of educators and residents is being formed to make sure the school will have the academic programs to match its state-of-the-art facility.

And, several area parents have founded a support group to help market the school, as parents in Charles Village and Hampden have done for their public schools

Crossing Greenmount Avenue gives some parents pause, said Kedri Metzger, co-founder of Waverly School Friends and Neighbors, a support group similar to the Village Parents, which advocates for Barclay and Margaret Brent public schools in Charles Village. Her front porch overlooks the Waverly school, and her son, Ariel, 5, will attend kindergarten there this fall.

"It's a big leap for people to think about anything on the other side of Greenmount," Metzger said.

"We're trying to get families to take a second look," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who will serve on the newly formed steering committee. "We need to reach out to the whole (school) zone."

"That is absolutely on our minds," said Karen DeCamp, director of neighborhood programs for the Greater Homewood Community Corp., which helped organize the steering committee. "We are mobilizing around the idea that everyone ought to feel comfortable and happy sending their children to the Waverly School."

But they will have to convince people like Counselman, the Oakenshawe president. His oldest son, Matthew, 5, will attend private school this fall, not Waverly Elementary.

"It's nothing against Waverly. It's the system," said Counselman, who took issue with the school system in general and said he can afford to send Matthew to Calvert School, a prestigious private school in Tuscany-Canterbury.

For the school system, the new Waverly school, which principal Michelle Ferris said would roughly double student capacity to 440, is important not only as the first one built in the city in 14 years, but as the starting point for a systemic review of city schools to determine which ones should be closed, renovated or rebuilt.

"Waverly is just one example of how we are going about looking at our buildings," said Edie House-Foster, a school system spokeswoman.

But at the community level, the school is an example of parents coming together to promote urban schools.

'Bad rap'

Ferris, principal of Waverly Elementary/Middle for the past three years, conceded that some parents are nervous about sending their children there.

"There's been some of that," Ferris said.