District leaders discuss plans for elementary school
By Erik Buchinger
Clintonville School District leaders met with members of the media to answer questions about the upcoming April 4 elementary school referendum regarding the academic challenges and opportunities.
In attendance were Clintonville School District Superintendent Tom O’Toole, Rexford-Longfellow Elementary Principal Tami Bagstad and Rexford-Longfellow Elementary Associate Principal Scott Huff. Bagstad and Huff are also co-principals of Dellwood Early Learning Center.
O’Toole said a big issue is the lack of a secure entrance to the school.
“One thing they run into on a daily basis is the secure entrances,” O’Toole said. “There is none at the elementary right now. Once somebody is in the door, they can go to the kindergarten wing, up the stairs, they can go almost anywhere, and it’s just not a secure situation.”
Ideally, the group said it would prefer to have clear vision to the front door directly from the office and have the entrance lead to the office.
“Right now, when you walk in our doors, you can go several different directions,” Bagstad said. “We say please come to the office, but if you don’t know where the office is, people end up somewhere else.”
Bagstad said some of the biggest needs from an academic perspective include a flexible learning environment.
“Among the biggest item needs are flexible learning environments,” Bagstad said. “A lot of where education is moving is the academic achievement of students and how different the classroom environments are.”
Bagstad said the classroom environment currently involves a lot of activities, especially at the elementary school level.
“There’s a lot more activity,” Bagstad said. “Pretty much every 10 minutes of sitting is about long enough especially for elementary students getting up and doing those stretching or moving breaks.”
The SMART Boards in classrooms are tucked into corners, which is because of the lack of outlets in the rooms.
“We had to find a place for them,” Huff said. “It would do, but when you re-design it, you can place them inside the room wherever you want to make them more of a focal point.”
Students sometimes use Chromebooks and iPads, and Wi-Fi has been an issue, according to Huff.
Bagstad said the lack of air conditioning is an important issue.
“Not having air conditioning makes such a difference,” Bagstad said. “Starting from the beginning of school to the end of school, kids just get so hot. They sometimes get sick from being so warm, they don’t do well on their testing and they can’t focus and there are a lot of things.”
According to Huff, natural light in the classrooms has been a big emphasis when building new schools.
“The way they are going with new designs is to get the natural light in them because it does help the education of the students,” Huff said. “When I was in Marshfield, I was on a committee that we built two new elementaries and remodeled two other ones, and the goal was to put light in every room because it helps the kids.”
The district said it would like to see a more of a multimedia center as opposed to a traditional library to enhance the modern ways of learning.
Since approximately seven years ago, the elementary school’s auditorium stopped being used regularly because of the fire code.
“We do not currently use it,” Bagstad said. “We have too many students to even perform our Christmas concerts in there anymore, which used to be a big draw. There is too many for fire code. If we ever have an indoor recess and we need space, we’ll use it. If we have a special incentive for movie days, we will use it, but those are all we really use the auditorium for.”
The elementary school was built for a high school originally, so everything is built for older students.
Huff, who has held his current roles since the beginning of the academic year, said he was intrigued about the prospects of a new elementary school when researching Clintonville.
“I can only speak for my own personal feelings because I’m new to the community,” Huff said. “When I researched the community, the first thing I saw was that you were looking to build a new elementary, and I was excited because that would be awesome. I would like to go there because I saw what you currently had, which did not excite me at all. But the idea of having a new one, I thought that would be good for the community and for the kids.”
O’Toole said he thinks there has been fewer turnover with staff at the high school it opened in 2003.
“The high school has been so well-received, and the kids have treated it well, the families have treated it well, the staff takes care of it and it’s just a really nice structure,” O’Toole said. “I haven’t done a true study, but it seems like we have less staff turnover in that building that we do in other buildings. It’s highly unofficial, but it seems people are pleased in that work environment.”
“I think it could be a shot in the arm for the community,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said he could not predict whether or not a new school would increase enrollment, but it could be a possibility.
“I think when people look into moving into a community, they look at the schools,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said he has tried to make the public as informed about the referendum as possible and said it should be close.
“I think it will be tight just because there are supporters of the 1918 buildings that will not see through that,” O’Toole said. “Any time you are asking people for more money, it’s always tight. We try to justify it.”
The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette will continue to provide coverage on the elementary school leading up to the referendum on April 4.