By Jordan Puckett
Eastgate Mall has recently formed a partnership with West Clermont Schools to hold a monthly story time in the play area near JCPenney’s.
The partnership came from a desire to better connect the schools to the community.
“Research says that engaging school districts builds strong vibrant communities which support thriving businesses,” says Linda Austin, principal of Summerside Elementary. “Two-way communication with staff, parents, students, and residents of West Clermont Local schools is one of our top priorities.”
This new partnership with the mall also comes as a bid to attract more volunteers to the school district.
“West Clermont serves over 9,000 students and employs over 900 staff,” Austin said. “In the last several years, we have made critical instructional reductions to make our budget work. We are always looking for volunteers of all ages to work in the library or support a teacher by making copies or preparing materials.”
They hope to find such volunteers by spreading awareness through the new program at the mall.
“Since the Eastgate Mall is a focal point of Union Township, it occurred to our leadership team that creating a partnership with the mall makes sense,” Austin said. “Perhaps we will find volunteers to partner with teachers in the classroom to help students read and learn math.”
The first reading took place at 10 a.m. May 11. Mrs. Peggy Simmons, a first grade teacher at Summerside Elementary, was the first guest reader. She read “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss and “We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past” by Jacqueline Woodson. There were 12 kids in attendance.
Besides readings, the schools and the mall plan to expand the program to other arts, such as music. This would include “instrument petting zoos” hosted by Willis Music. Kids will be able to see different instruments and hear the sounds they make.
There are also plans for writing projects. Fourth or fifth grade students will partner with senior citizens, meeting at the mall and using that as a place to hold interviews which will serve as the base for the writing assignments.
“Although the story time events are geared toward younger children, West Clermont Schools and the Eastgate Mall have plans to create events that target all age levels of our students, not just elementary,” Austin said. “We are working collaboratively to bring students” work and performances into the mall in the fall and through the holiday season.”
The next reading will take place at 10 a.m. June 8. Merwin Elementary is hosting the story time and will select one of its own teachers to be the guest reader. The event is free and children of all ages are encouraged to attend.