It usually lands reliably in our mailboxes at the same time the daffodils bloom. Parents would pull the thick catalog out of the mailboxes and sit down with their children, starry eyed at the thought of learning Spanish, piano or cooking during the dog days of summer. In our house, the Monroe Public Schools Arts and Imagination Summer catalog was something akin to the Toys R Us book of toys that lands the weekend after Thanksgiving: all possibility and anticipation.
But as I was cleaning out the never ending pile of junk mail that magically grows on my kitchen counter a few weeks ago, I realized something was missing. We'd never received that little booklet with summer offerings through Monroe Public Schools. A girlfriend of mine wondered too as to how she was going to parcel out the warm weeks of July.
“Did you get the Arts and Imagination book yet?” she asked.
Had we missed it? Was it just late? But I could envision clearly in my mind's eye the last five years of signing up my daughter for the classes: the trees were always blooming outside of Monroe Elementary as I walked in.
“It's definitely late," I told my girlfriend as we tried to reason out the possibilities.
When we moved to Connecticut from Ohio nearly seven years ago, one of the things that had impressed me the most about Monroe Public Schools was the Arts and Imagination program. My eldest son attended school in four different states, and I've taught in three different school systems; I'd never seen a program like it for elementary students. Children have the opportunity to take karate, learn jewelry making, explore all sorts of new and interesting topics for a reasonable price. And while I think the programs run before and after the school days are outstanding, it was the summer program that enthused me the most. Nearly every summer we have lived here, we have always signed up for at least one week with the program, and coupled it with other programs available in town.
But apparently, not this year. When more than one friend of mine started asking if I knew what was going on with the program, I finally asked a friend who has worked in the program in the past. She confirmed to me that the district has decided not to run the Arts and Imagination program this summer. I was very disappointed to hear the news.
What bothers me more, though, is the lack of information available to the public about this decision. I never saw this on an agenda for the Monroe Board of Education for discussion (although admittedly I do not attend every meeting, but I do try to stay informed); I have seen no press releases from the district regarding the decision to shelve the program. Is this due to low enrollment during the last few summers? Is it related to the decision to close Chalk Hill School (where the program has traditionally been housed)? Is there a budgetary reason for the decision? I have no idea.
I wish the public had been given the opportunity to weigh in on this decision to end an iconic program, a true asset to living within the borders of Monroe. This summer just will not be the same.