When my brother Dana passed away after being shot (and in the coma for 3 weeks), the principal of the Blue Lake Elementary School went to each class in the school to break the news. Class by class.
Everyone in the school knew and loved Dana. Besides the fact that 2 of his own kids had attended Blue Lake Elementary, he owned the only coffee shop in town and pulled people together, created community. He was a big, bright, shining star in this spectrum of life.
And when he was gone, the school mourned.
I found that out after I moved to Blue Lake because of the divorce. I was deeply touched by the love the school had for my brother and the grace they showed us, and felt sad because nothing similar was present for us on the Lost Coast when all of this happened.
I mean, it makes sense – few on the Lost Coast knew my brother after all – I was just in the wrong town for that time and space.
That’s neither here nor there though.
Or rather, it’s all there and not here.
Here is a school that’s been beyond awesome for my kids. With class sizes of around 20 kids, and with a whole grade per room, it was huge compared to the Lost Coast (which, by contrast, had 3 grades per room).
Micah absolutely thrived in a setting that included a teacher that thoroughly believed in him and with the opportunity to make friends with peers (because there were more than 2 kids his age in the school maybe? He actually had peers in Blue Lake!). Micah went from zero-hundred with his confidence and esteem, just completely flourished.
Mack went to school for the first time, joining Transitional Kindergarten, which was everything awesome.
Moxie had a great time with school, but it was a rougher ride for me, dealing with her IEP in a larger setting that was not as familiar with her.
Moxie’s IEP Stuff
When we first moved there, I flipped (“chucked a wobbly” as my friend Audrey used to say). Getting an IEP meeting together was taking longer than I thought it should, the Blue Lake side of the team wasn’t as on-it and awesome as the Lost Coast side had been, and well, I was just scared for my baby girl and the possibility of her being discriminated against. My inner mama bear was UP.
The Lost Coast side – that is, Moxie’s former special education resource teacher, the principal of the school, Moxie’s former teacher had a call-in meeting with the IEP, and her speech therapist actually came in person. It was great, but a lot of details and pieces had to be ironed out, which they were over the course of the next month or two.
The entire process was highly valuable to me – I mean, I was frustrated and pissed off at times, but it forced me to seek out help from my Down syndrome parent community and get information on how to develop a solid IEP, as well as what Moxie’s rights actually are. This is going to serve us really well when we move to Hawai’i (and yes – we are moving to Hawai’i!), as the schools in Hawai’i are a hell of a lot bigger than 100 kids.
I love Blue Lake Elementary
It’s big enough but small enough. The teachers are great. The principal is wonderful – a strong woman with a firm hand. They have a fantastic after-school care program that is free.
The diversity component could be better – there are a few kids with disabilities, not many. And not many kids who are African American. There are quite a few kids who are of Latino or Native American descent, and the Native American presence is felt (which I loved).
Getting a gorgeous diverse spectrum of kids in the learning space is hard in rural Northern California because there just aren’t that many people, and of those people, most of them are white.
Overall, Blue Lake Elementary was loving, supportive, encouraging with us. The classrooms were the nicest I’ve ever seen in my life – high ceilings that went on and on, huge windows, tons of natural light, gorgeous space. Fantastic playgrounds.
We were not there long – only a few months. But I am so grateful that we had that experience of being in a school that held so much love for us, as people and as still-grieving kin of Dana’s.
I’m so grateful that Micah has had the opportunity to heal, move on and flourish. I’m grateful that Moxie and Mack are just easy-going little bosses who make the world love them, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to learn and grow in the whole process of developing an IEP.
A whole lotta good and gratitude here.
Over & out