The savior that is People’s Institute

Published: 5/5/2021 1:44:50 PM People’s Institute is housed in a big brick building on Gothic Street in Northampton. For most of the...

Published: 5/5/2021 1:44:50 PM

People’s Institute is housed in a big brick building on Gothic Street in Northampton. For most of the day, the only outward sign of its purpose is the yelling and laughter of the 2 to 5 year olds taught inside and let loose to play in the back.

But if you happen to find yourself down on Gothic Street at 8:30 in the morning or 4:30 in afternoon you will witness the flock of cars that cruise in with their hazard lights on to dispatch and retrieve their children. There’s the one kid in the morning being gently coaxed into school with the soothing words of an administrator. In the afternoon there’s the packs of kids flying out the door, down the steps, leaping into the arms of their parents or guardians, backpacks overflowing with projects.

People’s Institute is the kind of place that has shamrock green in the toilets on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s the kind of place where kids are taught jokes that they can repeat at home, where they learn how to count in Polish and foray out into the nature of Northampton.

There are no glossy brochures for the school or particular pedagogical mission. It’s also the kind of place that stayed open for the entirety of our pandemic school year.

All through the summer the faculty and staff of People’s Institute grappled with the correct question: How do we stay open this year? Their baseline understanding was that it was essential and possible. They implemented the proper protocols, they carefully monitored and dealt with illness where it arose, and they kept their doors open, even through the surge of our COVID “dark winter.”

My 4 year old boy has been gifted with not just a normal year, but an exemplary one. He has been in the care of a teacher so profound that he often addresses my wife as, “Ms. B,” and Ms. B. as “Mom.” He has been allowed to roughhouse with his pals, learn how to hold his place in a line, and be the all around goof ball he was born to be. All of this without a flicker of screen time.

By supporting my son, People’s Institute has preserved the sanity of my family. Every family, all those blinking hazard lights depositing and collecting kids on Gothic Street, has been saved by a school that made this year possible. I’ve often joked with my wife that of all the institutions in the United States, People’s Institute is the one I respect the most. But it’s not a joke. It’s the truth.

Norman Coady is a history teacher at Northampton High School.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The savior that is People’s Institute
The savior that is People’s Institute
Newsrust - US Top News
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