Every school years brings new adventures for both the students and the teachers. But this fall, the St. Francis Elementary (SFE) School fourth- and fifth-graders will be having a much different adventure than the typical new year.
The two grade levels will be leaving SFE for their own space at the St. Francis Middle School building.
The students will be in SFE North, which is located on the second floor of the middle school’s west side and was once the St. Francis Intermediate School, said Kathy Kohnen, SFE principal.
They will still be part of SFE, not the middle school, she said.
With a new kindergarten program and the new districtwide Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program for the fourth-graders, SFE needed to find more space and moving the two grades to SFE North opened up classrooms.
“SFE has been extremely crowded for the last two years,” said Superintendent Ed Saxton.
“We did not have an ounce of space left in the building. There was not a single available classroom,” Kohnen said.
With the new every day, all day kindergarten program starting this fall, two to three more classrooms were needed, she said.
The school will also be adding another third-grade classroom and many need another first-grade classroom, Kohnen said.
“It all depends on the enrollment this fall,” she said.
Conservative projections put SFE enrollment at 713 students this fall.
SFE had 717 students last year, but the school enrollment seems to climb every summer, Kohnen said.
The move also gives the school space to create a STEM lab for the four-graders, which could also be used by the fifth-graders.
“There would not have been space for it at SFE,” Kohnen said.
Moving the two grades to SFE North also frees up space at the SFE for special activities, like school pictures and the book fair.
“When we do the Scholastic Book Fair or student pictures, we have to use the gym,” which disrupts the physical education program, Kohnen said.
This is going to be a good move, she said.
“We are really putting everything possible into it bringing the two building sections together as one school,” Kohnen said.
SFE North is still part of the elementary school and it will be following the same schedule, she said.
The students will arrive on the elementary school bus and be dropped at the middle school after the younger students get off the bus.
The fourth- and fifth-graders will have their own lunchroom and have very little interaction with the middle school students, Kohnen said.
The only interaction they will have with the older students is passing in the halls for lunch or to the gym for physical education or the music room, she said.
The district sixth-graders will be on the ground floor of middle school’s west side with the seventh- and eighth-graders on the east side of the building.
SFE North students will make field trips to SFE for special programs and to visit media center, Kohnen said.
Work in progress
There are still a lot of details needing to be worked out with the move.
Although the middle schoolers will still hear the class bells, staff is trying to work it so that the bells do not sound in the fourth- and fifth-grade section, Kohnen said.
She is also working to get an additional 30 iPads for the SFE North students.
Right now the SFE has 32 iPads for school use and she wants to use APT (Association of Parents and Teachers) and general budget funds to purchase 20 more and the remaining 10 iPads will be arranged by the information technology department, Kohnen said.
There are also some organizational details to work out, including how and where the teachers will make photocopies and how the morning announcements will be made at the two buildings, she said.
The elementary social worker will be working at both buildings and Kohnen will also be floating between the two building.
This is not the first time Kohnen has had to oversee students in two buildings.
After the SFE modular classrooms were discovered to have mold in 2007, the school’s fourth-graders were quickly moved to the district’s Sandhill Center for the Arts in Bethel.
In 2008-2009, the fifth-graders were moved to the middle school because SFE’s enrollment caused a classroom shortage. The fourth-graders were moved back to SFE.
It will be fun to see what the fourth- and fifth-graders think of their new space, especially the STEM lab, Kohnen said.
The students and families will get their first chance to see the newly redesigned area during the annual open house, Tuesday, Aug. 28, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The kindergarten open house will be Monday, Aug. 27, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]