by Shelly Yanoff
C.W. Henry School sits in the middle at the bustling corner of Greene Street and Carpenter Lane in Mount Airy. It shares the intersection with some high-traffic destinations like the High Point Cafe and Weavers Way Co-op.
The kindergarten to eighth grade public school boasts a parent teacher association that pitches in to help support both the things the school needs, from computers and supplies, to volunteers, as well as the extra help the Playworks staff provides.
Playworks, reminds all who see it that learning and play can happen at the same time. Passing by the school before classes or during recess, neighbors can see students learning and playing. Inside the school, visitors and volunteers sign in and go to the office to be met by school personnel. The school is big, but its scale honors the young people for whom it was built and who it serves.
Henry’s building is arranged in what we now might call pods – one of which houses the lower grades, one, the upper grades, and one that opens into a bright area with doors to the rooms where art and special classes are held.
On the day I visited, one class was discussing a play it was taking a trip to see,-while in another class an exercise session was taking place – young folks were working “off” or “out” the post-lunch “blahs.”
The school has a music and arts program, a music and art teacher, a counselor and a resource center staffed by an intern who assists volunteers in tutoring math and science students. There is no library or school librarian.
The quiet halls have lots of student work hanging proudly near photos of students – reminders of what school is all about.
When I asked principal Fatima Rogers what she wishes for Henry, she said she would love it to be a neighborhood school. There are almost 500 students attending Henry – about 55 percent are from the school’s official area. Others come from neighboring communities.
In this time of uncertainty about the school district’s budget, the many cuts that have been endured, and the changing notion of neighborhood schools, Henry seems to be doing what it has been doing for many decades.
Henry teaches the kids who enter its doors, is supported by a band of committed parents and community members, and is led by committed educators – not a bad record for our schools at this time and in this place.