Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Stretching Resources

     While we are thrilled at the growth in enrollment at Cashton Elementary School which, for likely the first time, has a higher enrollment than the high school, we have perhaps stretched our building in ways its designers hadn't anticipated.  We are fortunate that the community has provided an outstanding facility for our students and helped it to improve with changing instructional practices, the values of smaller class sizes, and the importance of understanding the benefits of technology for future success.  In the pursuit of instructional practices that target the individual needs of students, there is an increased need for space beyond the traditional classroom walls.  The staff has demonstrated considerable flexibility and embraced creative solutions, but each time the building is stretched further, there are fewer options remaining.  Students today are learning is a safe and time-tested environment that is appropriate for their needs.  The question at hand, however, is whether the resources of today will be ideal for tomorrow's students.  Consider a few ways we have stretched our building to support its largest student body in decades.

What was once an employee lunch area, now serves multiple purposes including housing copying services, centralized printing, laminating, materials preparation, and instruction...and it continues to be the employee lunch area.  Overlapping the uses of this space freed space in other parts of the building for instruction.

This year, students outgrew the seating capacity in the cafeteria.  Serving lunch in three shifts and borrowing tables from the high school has enabled a quality, yet full, lunchroom, but there are few options for future growth.  Nearly 250 of the 300 students participate in the school lunch program each day.

What was once the copier room is now the office and instructional classroom for Speech and Language services.  This creative solution provided the privacy and quiet environment needed to support the needs of students.  The impressive job Mrs. Miller did in transforming the space was much appreciated.

The original stage built in 1964 now serves as in instructional classroom for reading and writing classes.  The square footage is well used to provide more individualized instruction in a safe environment, but the performances by elementary students are certainly missed.

Noticeable to many families is the dramatic increase in class size at grades four and five.  After years of experiencing smaller classes due to SAGE, a state funded program that supports small classes in grades K-3, fourth grade students are having a different experience.  This year, students are learning to succeed with 27 students in each fourth grade classroom and 24 in each fifth grade classroom.  While that may be below class sizes in large districts across the country, it is far different from what Elementary families have valued and appreciated in past years.  With all classrooms currently used for instruction, the building could not house a third section. 

Mrs. Johnson has done an commendable job of encouraging families to read with their children in the library.  That space is well used!  The increasing needs for housing technology tools has pushed the space farther than originally planned.  Thankfully the space was designed with growth in mind, but it is clear that the LMC is often at full capacity.

Other responses to growth include the doubled classroom at grade three that includes two teachers to support a larger class size that is still within SAGE limits, the dual use of a small room that houses both the curriculum director and the server for the building's computer network, and a larger classroom that was split with a portable room divider to meet the needs of two instructional specialists.  As the community grows, the elementary will stretch, flex, and adapt to the fullest extent to support students.  The question however exists, how much farther will it stretch?