Teachers urge SL school board to opt for single-site new elementary
Two Storm Lake elementary educators representing the Elementary School Improve-ment Team were on hand at the Storm Lake School Board meeting Wednesday night to lend support for a possible new, one site elementary building.
Barb Lange, first grade teacher at East Elementary, and Sheryl Kleppe, counselor at North and South Elementaries, gave a PowerPoint presentation that outlined 16 separate reasons why teachers would like to see the four present elementaries combined under one roof.
"Obviously, we've had this on the front burner for a long time, but with the December 16 vote (on the SILO tax), we really need to look at this," SL superintendent Bill Kruse said before the presentation. "Really what we're looking at is a reason to have a K-4, one site elementary building."
Lange and Kleppe did their best to relay those reasons to Kruse and members of the board. Their presentation told of their visions for the future and the realities they see today:
* Vision 1: All students will have access to the same quality computer labs and library facilities. Reality: There are currently four small computer labs and four small libraries.
* Vision 2: All qualifying first grade students would be able to be tutored through Reading Rescue.
Reality: Currently, scheduling difficulties and classroom coverage make tutorial assistance limited at some sites.
"Research shows the need for one-on-one reading tutoring," Lange said. "It shows that after first grade, if you can't read well, you're going to have difficulties."
Vision 3: Students will be able to work in small group settings with peers who are at the same level of instruction. Reality: Currently, they group for reading and in some cases, math, science and social studies. This is possible for only a limited number of students.
Vision 4: Challenge students would be able to work with other Challenge (Talented & Gifted) students of similar age and interests. Reality: Some students are not able to be served through the Challenge pull-out because of limited numbers at some sites.
Vision 5: All students would have the opportunity to interact with full inclusion students. Reality: Only South and East have the opportunity to interact with full inclusion students. West and North are not fully handicapped accessible.
Vision 6: Students will have the opportunity to experience a wider range of friendship opportunities. Reality: In most cases, students have two sections of each grade level from which to make friendships.
"Think what one building could do for the students of Storm Lake," Lange said of providing the students with a larger friendship base.
Vision 7: ELL students would be better served in one elementary. Reality: Currently, ELL students are served in small groups in each center.
Vision 8: Elementary parents would be able to drop their children at one site. There is potential for all children in the same family to be at one site. Reality: Currently, parents may have elementary children at several buildings.
Kleppe told the board that she just had a parent enroll children in three of the elementary buildings and in the middle school, making for four drop-off and pick-up sites for her.
Vision 9: Teachers would be able to meet in grade levels to discuss both curricular and students needs. Research supports meeting in this fashion daily to produce optimum results. Reality: Currently, grade level teachers meet sporadically at best. Attempts are made to have monthly meetings with a limited time allotted.
Vision 10: Resource teachers, Title teachers, Challenge teachers and counselors could better utilize their time, be able to share their resources and access more students. Reality: Currently, these educators work in separate sites and have to utilize duplicated materials. Travel time in some cases limits the amount of student time available.
Vision 11: Counselors and administrators would be available full time. Reality: Currently, each counselor and administrator serves two buildings. They need to be called in case of emergency.
"I can speak to that as a counselor," Kleppe said. "It never fails, if I'm in one building, I'm needed in another."
Vision 12: The district might be able to purchase more needed supplies due to the reduction of duplication at four sites. Reality: Currently, four sets of music books, art supplies and physical education materials are purchased.
"We could buy a lot of different things rather than having to buy duplicate things," Lange said.
Vision 13: The district would be able to save money on infrastructure and utility costs. Reality: The district could save up to $70,000 on utility costs by having one elementary. Infrastructure needs occur frequently in older buildings.
Vision 14: The district may be able to save salary costs. Reality: Potentially, the district could save close to $100,000 in possible (support) staff reductions.
Vision 15: The district would be able to save costs of traveling teachers. Reality: Currently, the district has 18 traveling teachers. The district could save $4,000 per year in traveling costs.
"I don't know if you realize it, but the they are able to turn in mileage," Kleppe said. "Not all of them do, but if they did it would be about $4,000 a year."
Vision 16: We will have a state of the art elementary facility that would provide top notch opportunities for all students. Reality: The average age of the four elementary buildings is 69 years.
"With the vote on December 16, I think it's a great opportunity to realize the vision for one elementary school," Lange said. "The students of Storm Lake would greatly benefit."