No matter how you cut it, the summer weeks at a school happen in grayscale; it’s only technicolor on campus when the students are back.
This summer at our school was busy, no doubt. We packed up our whole campus, said goodbye to a building that we loved (despite, or at times because of its funkiness and old age), and moved eleven minutes up the road to a beautiful new campus that we’ll call home for the next two school years.
“ACMA at 118th” we call it, a reference to our temporary address, and a reminder that in the fall of 2021 we’ll be back to just being “ACMA” again, that quirky, creative, and amazing little school tucked away up on Center Street.
July saw the gym fill with boxes, nine semi trucks deliver high school sized furniture that had to be put together, and a team of dedicated professionals clean the school from top to bottom. In my quarter century in education I have never started the year with a more spick-and-span campus. It was beautiful and despite the aggressively yellow trim, grayscale.
Until the kids arrived.
The first few came in during early August, our student government execs brimming with ideas and excitement about the year ahead.
A week later a small burst of new students arrived for the morning, phoned by our registrar to be given the good news that a spot had opened and their names had been pulled from the waitlist. They were ACMAniacs, if they chose to accept it. They did. Smilingly.
National Honor Society kids came next. They’d be tour guides on ACMA Day, and I got to take them around the school. “This is amazing,” one commented. “And huge.” Seeing them see the spaces they’ll use to perform plays, create art, and keep our ACMA spirit alive was fantastic.
More students arrived to help hang artwork, posters of the murals that had filled our original building and would provide a familiar sense of home at this new building.
Others volunteered to help unload boxes, sort keys, and be the hands of ACMA as we prepared to start starting to prepare starting for the first day of school.
These slices of color began to brighten our school, still a translucent rainbow against the gray, but the start of the color to come.
Then, just two weeks before the first day of school, ACMA Day brought more than 600 of our students onto campus to pick up class lists, take tours, and get their photos taken (both for their ID cards and silly photos for the yearbook). For a day campus felt as colorful as a Tahitian painting by Gauguin, a preview of the year ahead.
Back to School Night came a week later. Here at ACMA we to it before the first day of school, and it was fabulous. Seeing so many students and their families on campus, meeting teachers, seeing the spaces where they’ll be learning, and filling the building with optimism and energy was inspiring.
Today every student new to ACMA came to campus. We filled the commons for a welcome, broke into groups to get to know each other and our school, and let the kids go through their whole schedule to help take away some of the anxiety that accompanies starting at a new school. ACMA will feel familiar soon, and it’s up to us to help build that sense of welcome and community.
Tomorrow everyone arrives, and with them ACMA blossoms with the full range of colors. If the year is a painting, and at our little art school that feels like as apt a metaphor as any, then tomorrow is when we pick up our full palette and get ready to put brush to canvas. Our year together begins, and with it a brilliant explosion of color.