From the Burlington Free Press
Published October 3, 2014
By Molly Walsh
It’s a happy day on the playground at the Sustainability Academy in Burlington.
The autumn sun is shining, the air is fresh, and the children are enjoying an extra recess, a bonus that principal Brian Williams extends in exchange for hard work and good behavior.
The additional dose of play and physical exercise helps children thrive, which helps them learn, Williams said.
“They need space; they need air; they need to move,” he said.
The small public school on North Street emphasizes environmental education and actions that will make the world a better place. As one of the first two magnet schools in Vermont and in Burlington, the academy is five years into an experiment in the city’s Old North End, a neighborhood where college students, urban yuppies seeking reasonably priced housing, and recently arrived refugees from around the globe share the streets with low-income families that have lived there for generations.
For decades, the poverty rate at the Sustainability Academy, formerly known as Lawrence Barnes School, was so high that it scared away some middle-class families. Test scores showed that many children were lagging below grade level. Teachers struggled to serve the needs of so many children from vulnerable families.