North, East may go to grade-levels

Monday, January 21, 2002

Teachers ask for accessibility, but neighborhood schools legacy at issue.

The Storm Lake School District is considering to combine grade sections at North and East elementaries for next year, creating a kindergarten/first grade building and a 2nd-4th grade building.

If that is done the schools would no longer be the traditional "neighborhood" schools model the district has relied upon, but the combined grade sections could give teachers more resources to draw upon.

The ideas was brought to the Storm Lake School Board this week, after teachers first approached the administration requesting the single-section schools be combined so more than one class section will be at each building.

The "rough" idea would be to locate kindergarten and first grade at East and move the other three grades to North, said Superintendent Bill Kruse. Preschool programs would continue at East.

"It's not an economic issue, it's not something that's been always in the back of our minds," Kruse said. "Teachers have come to the administration and asked if we can work something out."

Currently North and East each have one section of classes in grades K-4. West and South both have two sections at each grade level.

The teachers made the request after the last parent-teacher conferences, Kruse said. The teachers' hope to see more accessibility between other teachers at the same grade level for professional collaboration and to accommodate the varied needs in each of the buildings.

Kruse said the double sections would allow teachers to team together in planning and assisting in class work and assignments.

"We see a great divide in learning ability, and this would perhaps help with skill grouping in reading and math areas," Kruse said.

Kruse met with teachers last week about the idea and will meet with them again this week.

It is important to consider the district's options now, so a decision can be made before kindergarten round-up begins in April, Kruse said.

There are some disadvantages as well, Kruse said, including the loss of "neighborhood" schools, where siblings are often in the same building.

"That would not be the case if one student is in kindergarten and another in second grade," he said.

Also, handicap accessibility is an issue at North Elementary. Kruse said the district may have to consider placing students with any special needs at South if the decision to combine sections at East and North is done.

While the idea of doubling sections at North and East is to promote collaboration among teachers, Kruse said there is also concern with Reading Rescue and other tutoring programs. Currently teachers work with students in grade levels they do not necessarily teach in.

Before any decision is made, Kruse said parent input is important, as well as more input from the teachers.

Board member Dan Douglas said he would like to know if all teachers would use the new opportunities to work together. "If there's not collaboration, there's no reason to do it," he said.

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