Communitywide elementary will open new doors of opportunity in SL
The anticipation for the new elementary school has been years in the making, but as site work gets underway, it is ramping up - especially among the community's educators.
"Just seeing that dirt being pushed around makes us realize it is a reality," fourth grade teacher Patty Semprini says.
While progress has been somewhat delayed, the development will be worth the wait, teachers feel.
School staff and facultys have been spread out into neighborhood schools for generations, and it has been a comfortable arrangement. But the teachers say there will be major changes - exciting changes - once they are all under the same roof.
With same-age students spread out into the four existing schools in the district, the teachers of those grades have long since discovered the value in networking - near daily e-mails have been sent from building to building, from teacher to teacher, to share information, they note.
In the new elementary, the grades will be situated into their own "neighborhoods" within the building, and teachers will be free to work together and share resources.
"I am so excited about the possibilities," said Deb Mortensen, kindergarten teacher at South School.
"We'll have a lot more opportunities to share with one another. If someone is talented in one area, such as music, it can be shared with others besides in our own classrooms. It will be nice to be all together and should help in our planning."
Students will ultimately benefit, she predicts. Many same-age students haven't had a chance to get to know each other while served by separate schools.
Having one large library and computer lab is a major plus, educators say.
Equipment and materials, will no longer need to be duplicated for each building, reducing some expenses.
Sharon Butterfield, third grade teacher now at West School, said she looks forward to the sharing of not only ideas among teachers, but materials, that may have previously been delayed in getting passed around to teachers in the different buildings.
Planning for special visitors into the classroom and field trips would also be easier to coordinate with everyone under one roof.
Jacquie Bauer, a fourth grade teacher in West School, had the opportunity to be a part of the planning committee - comprised of teachers, administrators and board members - when talk of the project began. She had the chance to visit other newer elementary buildings across the state to gather some ideas of what they would like to include in a building at Storm Lake.
She later sat down with the others to convey those ideas with the architect. It was her task to share the information with the other fourth grade teachers. Even the smallest of details such as storage and whether to use table or desks, were examined as the plan took shape, she said..
"There was a lot of compromise but I think we came up with an excellent plan," she said.
The classes will be situated in their own "pods" and the younger students will occupy one portion of the building while the older students, in their class pods, will occupy another area. Though the school will be much larger than any of the existing four elementaries, Bauer said, the teachers will continue to have the opportunity to personalize their rooms. She will continue to be known as the "fish teacher" because of her fascination with fish, seen in her classroom decor.
Semprini, a fourth grade teacher in the South Building, is looking forward to the team planning, also, which will benefit the students as well.
"We will be able to bounce ideas around; we'll all be right there. Now we don't have any team time," she said, adding that the teachers, dedicated, have taken weekend time to all get together for discussion because conflicts have gotten in the way to bring teachers from three buildings together.
Jill Johnson, who has served as the elementary music teacher for the past 18 years, has had to travel throughout the day to the various school buildings to reach all of the students. She is extremely pleased that the elementary will soon all be under one roof.
"I am excited for a couple of reasons. I feel I will get the chance to get to know the students. Now, I finish music class and have to move on to another school. I am excited to be able to get to know the kids better."
She added, "I am also excited that I will be able to see what's going on in the classroom. I haven't had that chance unless they have told me something going on."
By being in close contact with the academic curriculum, she said, she will be able to "reinforce" some topics in music.
"I haven't minded the traveling around except all of the hauling of the equipment." It will be nice, the music teacher said, to have the equipment permanently housed in one location, accessible when ever she needs it.
She said she is not sure where future concerts may be performed, but said she is thankful for the board of education's efforts.
She shares her gratitude with the community as well.
"I am very grateful for their voting for the new school and appreciate their support," Johnson said. The overwhelming approval rate that passed he issue on the first try last December "truly shows how committed this community is to education."