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First Day of School: Trumbull Students Find Familiar Faces at Chappell

By Patty Wetli | August 26, 2013 11:35am
 First day of school at Chappell Elementary, which is welcoming students from shuttered Trumbull.
Chappell Welcomes Trumbull
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LINCOLN SQUARE — With police officers and "safe passage" workers in neon yellow vests stationed up and down Foster Avenue to guard their walk to school, students began streaming toward Chappell Elementary Monday morning.

Among the youngsters shouldering Hello Kitty backpacks and toting bags of supplies were close to 100 students from the now-shuttered Trumbull Elementary, located just a few blocks to the east.

"They're already Chappell kids," said Principal Joseph Peila. "That's how we're looking at it. We get students every year who are new to us, and they're ours."

Chappell held meet-and-greets for Trumbull families last spring and hosted a back-to-school picnic and movie-in-the-park evening over the summer, which drew 400 people, according to Peila.

Two "wonderful" Trumbull teachers also made the move to Chappell.

"We work so hard as a staff and a community," said Peila. "We're 100 percent ready to go."

As a "welcoming school," Chappell received some upgrades, including air conditioning, roof work, brick work and a new media center. The school's Internet bandwidth was also upgraded to accommodate new technology, including iPads.

It's quite the reversal for Chappell, which was itself in danger of being closed less than a decade ago due to low enrollment.

When Peila took the helm seven years ago, Chappell counted just 325 students. That number has steadily grown to the current 625 students — including pre-K — and the school now boasts a Level 1 "excellent" performance ranking from CPS.

"I've got a great team that's hard-working and willing to say, 'You set the vision and we'll work for it,'" said Peila.

The school also markedly increased the rigor of its instruction, he said. "If you expect it, kids will deliver."

On Monday, teachers held up placards like airport greeters in the courtyard outside the school, gathering their new students. Angela Garner, whose children were among the Trumbull diaspora, was pleased to see that her son's fifth-grade teacher was the same from his previous year at Trumbull.

"There are some familiar faces," including a security guard, said Garner. "It wasn't as foreign as I thought it would be."

She spent the summer reassuring her children — her daughter attends first grade at Chappell — that change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I feel OK right now. I don't want to make too fast a judgment and say 'I love it' or 'I hate it,'" she said. "But all the kids seem happy."