6th Grade Wars Over Removal of Lower School Pond

The week before Spring Break, every 6th grader was winding down. We were ready for spring. Everybody had just finished a big presentation for Social Studies, and we were ready for the two-week break. Then it happened. The War of the Pond.

When Leah Metelits, Josh Kulak, and Calder Duffy (all 6th graders) first pinned the petition on the bulletin board outside Saku Longshore’s office, murmurs could be heard from fellow 6th graders, such as “Sign the petition!” or “Save the pond!” Some students were confused, wondering, “What’s the pond?” Turns out, the Pond is a small pool of water behind the Cary building. It has resulted in a ridiculous amount of drama.

The petition stated: “EAC [Environmental Action Club] of all grades should be participating in cleaning and taking care of the Pond.” In so doing, the petition writers have asked EAC to be responsible for a significant amount of work. Although a member of the Middle School EAC, Kulak did not consult any leaders of the EAC before creating the petition. The pond had been discussed at a recent EAC meeting, led by Lower School science teacher Karen Cherubini. The club was thinking of putting chickens into the space.

Upon hearing of the petition, EAC members Lui Nehez and Spencer Kamens (also 6th graders) rushed to Cherubini, and a few minutes later, Nehez and Kamens posted a large sign next to the petition. “EAC WILL NOT CLEAN THE POND! YOU SIGN IT, YOU CLEAN IT,” was the message tacked up. It lacked finesse, but was fairly effective. Throughout the morning, in between classes and during them too, students were fighting about the pond. The Gondi class was the most agitated about it, as the founders of the petition are all in that homeroom. The Kalkstein class had several EAC members upset over the petition, and the Fetterman class had a lot of mixed feelings.

Keep in mind that this was all in one morning. At the weekly Middle School Assembly in the Poley auditorium later that day, Josh Kulak made an announcement to the Middle School asking for students to sign the petition. Nehez and Kamens, after the assembly, continued spreading the word that EAC had not endorsed (and never heard about) the petition. While the controversy mainly involved 6th grade students, a few 7th and 8th graders signed the petition as well. After learning that the petition did not have the endorsement of EAC, a few 6th graders crossed their names off the list.

The pond has been around for about ten years, but for the last four years, people have stopped coming to it. For safety reasons, the pond has been enclosed in a fence, which requires a key to unlock. Now, only Geoffrey Selling, who has been credited to be the most involved person with the pond, and Karen Cherubini take their Lower School science classes out there. Part of the reason the pond is being removed is the ongoing maintenance cost: it is in need of a new filter (at a cost of around one thousand dollars) and a new liner, the cost of which is unknown.

Selling has put in a lot of time and money into caring for the pond. Now that he’s retiring, the school community became more motivated to get rid of the pond. Even before Selling had announced his retirement, a discussion had started about the removal of the pond. A variety of reasons were considered, from health worries (mosquitos are attracted to the water), insurance liabilities (kids can fall in if not monitored properly), and sustainability of the pond. The Maintenance Department had already made a decision to remove the pond, before EAC was involved.

Cherubini is not angry about the petition itself. She said, “This is why I love GFS. The kids are so passionate.” Which is true—the kids that started the petition were passionate about keeping the pond, and the kids that got upset about the petition were passionate about EAC. Cherubini, however, is distressed about the situation: how could she keep everyone happy? She decided to hold an EAC meeting that was open to all students to discuss the pond. It got pretty heated. The point of the meeting was for everyone to hear the different sides of the story and for them to get a more open-minded view of everything. It didn’t work out quite so well, as a few kids stormed out in frustration.

After spring break, not many people were still heatedly discussing the pond, although it was still in the 6th grade buzz. Even now, months later, some are still upset at the outcome. Perhaps next year when we’re in 7th grade, people will be happy with the chickens.

Photo by Grace Busser