Westwoods welcomes Interlochen students as school closes

May 26, 2016

Two elementary schools in Traverse City are closing. The board at Traverse City Area Public Schools made that decision a few months ago. Parents were torn up about it, but now the kids are dealing with the reality of having to find a new school. Around 70 students from Interlochen Community School, one of the schools that’s closing, visited Westwoods Elementary School last week to get to know their future school.


Before the Interlochen students arrive, Erin Sorenson asks her third and fourth graders to "imagine that the situation were reversed." She says imagine your school had to close and you were going to your new school to meet the students and teachers. She wants them to have this in mind as they interact with the Interlochen students.

Fourth grader Xander Heitsch can do more than just imagine what it’s like. He transferred to Westwoods from Interlochen two years ago.

"It was kind of hard at first," Xander says, "but ... Westwoods welcomed me so well that it was only like a week, and then I was able to fit in with everybody else."

Xander says when he left Interlochen he missed the friends he had to leave behind, but now they're also coming to Westwoods. So it ended up working out.


Students from Westwoods Elementary School and Interlochen Community School watch a video about building bridges in Mrs. Sorenson's class.
Credit Morgan Springer

A group of Interlochen kids arrive at Mrs. Sorenson's class. Some of them look like they have the jitters.

The students split into small groups for a get-to-know-you activity. They’re building a bridge out of marshmallows and toothpicks, and the kids have to pick one bridge model designed by their peers and build it.


A group of students from both schools shows off the bridge they built out of marshmallows and toothpicks.
Credit Morgan Springer

By the end of the activity, one Interlochen student has gotten an invitation to lunch and another to play at recess.

At recess, Connor Miller, a younger Interlochen student, is sprinting around the playground with his new friend, a kid from Westwoods.

How did they meet?

"I just heard somebody talk to Cam, and I was like, 'Is his name Cam?' And then somebody said, 'Yes.'"

And then they became friends.

Connor's having fun at his future school, but he says there are things he'll miss about Interlochen.

"Because my friend is going to a different school, and I’m going to miss him," says Connor. "And I’m going to miss, um ... because there’s pizza there. Really, really yummy pizza, and there’s cool books there at the library."

But for the kids who are having a tougher time with the transition, Leland Branco has some words of comfort. He’s in fourth grade at Westwoods. He already switched schools once, and he’s switching again next year. 

"Just wait about a week," says Leland. "You won’t get lost; it’s a simple school, and you’ll have a ton of fun here."

Sound advice. Just give it about a week.