Solving an age-old dilemma, new safety concerns all in one; Open House Feb. 28 to see new school redesign

By : 
Jordan Gerard

The new main entrance of Spring Grove Public Schools has finally solved the age-old dilemma of which door to enter.

Those who did not attend school at Spring Grove nor visited before were perplexed about which door to enter, as four doors are at the front of the school. And now the main entrance clearly presents itself.

The gym doors on the north side will still be open during events like games, concerts and other school events.

The district will host an open house on Feb. 28, from 10 a.m. until the evening basketball game ends.

The community is welcome to tour the new renovations to the school in addition to the remainder of the building.

Students will tour guests around the building, and since the open house starts during the school day, guests will have the opportunity to see learning in action.

History

Priorities for the district when formulating the process for a remodel was improving learning spaces and improving security and accessibility of the school’s entrance, Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said.

The idea for a new entrance, new learning space and remodeled gymnasium bathrooms started in April 2018, when architects from Fielding Nair International visited the school.

Huichong Tang, associate designer, and Randy Fielding, founding chairman, talked with students, faculty and staff about what they would like to see in their school. 

Students cited different types of learning spaces such as group workspaces and individual nooks.

The two architects immediately saw a “sense of community and kindness” at Spring Grove, citing the school already had those two traits. 

They tossed around a few ideas to build upon, such as flexible furniture and collaboration spaces.

Math Learning Center

Out of that conversation came the idea to create a learning space for math and other subjects.

After much planning and design, the Math Learning Center took the entire space of the district office. 

The hammer was thrown in July, and construction was completed in early October, allowing students to use the room for the remainder of the year.

Teachers Kelsey Morken and Chris Strinmoen are able to teach math collaboratively and also teach their own classes simultaneously. They can teach as many as 70 students at the same time.

“Our math instructors team teach,” Udstuen said. “Instruction is self-paced with students learning what they need, when they need it.”

In this year’s second semester, seventh graders share their math time with the sophomore class and eighth graders share their math time with the freshman class.

The space features whiteboard walls, where a special paint allows teachers and students to literally write on the walls and erase it.

It also features a breakout room for small group work or one-on-one teaching. To save space, a garage door takes the place of a traditional door. Another breakout room is more traditional on the opposite side.

The new space allows the district to explore their ideology of a “one-room schoolhouse,” where students across different age groups can learn from one another.

They’ve already started the process with a combined Kindergarten-first grade class. 

First graders help kindergarteners with learning while kindergarteners give first graders confidence to lead.

The district hopes to explore a combined fifth and sixth grade class option.

The district is also focused on individualized learning, where students can take ownership of their learning. 

That’s been started with a self-paced math program called ALEKS and a Makerspace class, where students experience hands on learning, such as woodworking, 3-D printing, robotics and more.

Students said they enjoy individualized learning. It allows them to have extra study time before a test or work on other projects as long as they complete their work for other teachers on time.

The district also received a $150,000 grant from the Bush Foundation for individualized learning. Those funds purchased furniture for the Math Learning Center, Media Center and hallways.

Students were particularly interested in flexible furniture for small groups, reading, studying and “cave spaces,” where they can read or study alone.

The board was able to purchase the furniture at a 75 percent discount from Steelcase Inc. and Schmidt Goodman Office Products, Inc. The total was $20,819.50 worth of furniture that was immediately “student-approved.”

Students enjoy hanging out in the hallways before school starts at 8:30 a.m., and during class hours on new couches, where they can comfortably study. 

New individualized desks with wheels also adorn a few classrooms, making it easier to form small groups for schoolwork.

Existing furniture replaced older furniture in other classrooms that was either cumbersome or about 20 years old. 

The oldest furniture was given away for free in August, and any unclaimed items were hauled away for scrap.

New district office

Since the district office was pushed out, it needed a new space. The district was able to find space in the computer lab, which was being under utilized thanks to the technology program at Spring Grove.

In 2011, Spring Grove Communications gave the school district a grant to provide each student in grades 7-12 with a laptop that they could use for schoolwork, and either take home or leave at school. 

K-3 grades received classroom iPads for learning games, while 4 to 6 grades had the run of the computer labs. Now that 4 to 6 graders have Google Chrome books (small laptops), labs were remodeled into a new and improved district office.

The hammer was thrown in August 2018 to remodel the office, and the staff was finally able to move in February 2019.

Administrators have much more room in their offices, and it’s also a more private area for conversations with Principal Nancy Gulbranson and Udstuen. 

“The administrative staff put a lot of thought into how the new workspace needed to flow to meet the needs of our learners,” Udstuen said.

There’s also a more private area for students who aren’t feeling well, and for students who need to take medication during the day.

If students are dropped off to school before the doors open (8 a.m.) they can now wait inside the lobby instead of waiting outside in cold weather or rain.

Visitors to the school district also come directly to the office before going anywhere else in the school, which improves school safety. 

It also improves handicap accessibility, as people requiring a handicap entrance will no longer have to traverse two long hallways and an elevator to get to the office.

The costs for the project have not been tallied yet, but Udstuen will bring a total to the board meeting on Feb. 25. 

For now, students and staff are enjoying their new workspaces and learning spaces.