On the evening of Dec. 6, I pulled onto Independence Street, heading to Peak Expeditionary School’s Festivus Celebration. Midway up the road, cars were lining the sidewalks, and as I turned into the school’s driveway, the parking lot was completely full.
Having gone to Pennington Elementary (now Peak) myself and having kiddos there since 2015, I know the backlot tends to have open spots. Believing my tenured inside scoop would score me a good space, I headed to the back of the school, where I found my once well-kept secret was out, and many others had the same idea. Luckily, someone was leaving as I pulled in, and I was able to take their place.
In most instances, being unable to find parking would annoy me and mean an establishment would be too busy for comfort. In this situation, however, my heart soared with joy. I became overwhelmed with emotion at the reality of our now-growing and thriving neighborhood school. It’s a far cry from the ghost ship of a school in 2017 that our community had repeatedly fought to keep open, with just over 100 students attending and school events drawing tens of people as opposed to today’s hundreds.
Walking up to the event, centered around our outdoor learning garden, countless kids were running around, and parents were chatting with each other or enjoying the activities alongside their children. Our teachers and PTA volunteers were handing out cookies, popcorn and hot chocolate while our ‘Principal of Fun,’ Tim Carlin, who never misses the opportunity to dress for an occasion, was preparing to light our tree.
I managed to arrive just in time to join in the countdown and see our tree illuminate all the smiling and excited faces of our school community. A clothing swap station and bins for trash, recycling and compost reflect our school’s dedication to sustainability practices while our 5th-grade students put their entrepreneurial learning and skills on full display through their carnival fundraiser. Students built the business plan, selected and created games, chose price points, sold tickets and operated the games for families.
I shed more than a few tears while talking to staff and other parents about how far we’ve come in the last five years. The change is indescribably incredible, and the handful of us who have been there from the beginning of reimagining and rebuilding our school from the ground up fully grasp the amazing transformation that has taken place. I witnessed a real Christmas miracle that grew my heart two sizes that night. I have immense gratitude for the educators, parents, and students who leaned into making the seemingly impossible possible by fully embracing making education challenging, meaningful and adventurous. Thanks for your hard work and dedication!