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Elementary school students anxious to leave portables

Posted 1/19/16 (Tue)

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

While Watford City High School teachers and students are anxiously waiting to move into their new high school on Feb. 16, there’s a group of Watford City Elementary School teachers and students who are just as eager to see them go.
After spending yet another year of being crammed into portable classrooms at the elementary school, Watford City’s fourth and fifth-graders will be moving into the old high school as it becomes the school district’s new middle school.
Fourth-grader Ethan Evanson says he’s looking forward to the new move because there will be more room, and he says he’s really excited that he won’t have to go outside all of the time between buildings, like he does in his modular classroom.
 “Teachers are starting to box up items that they won’t be using until they get to move their items into their new classrooms,” said Brad Foss, Watford City Elementary School 4-6 grades principal. “We’ve been having weekly planning meetings with our staff in preparation for the move into the old high school building. We’ve been  going over classroom schedules, duty schedules, lunchroom schedules, computer systems, phones systems, all the hardware, desks, filing cabinets - really everything that is possibly needed. We’re trying to plan how it’s all going to be moved and worked through.”
Foss says that every facet that they can possibly think of is being considered in an effort to make the transition for teachers and students as smooth as possible.
“I’m excited because we won’t have to share our lockers,” said Grace Diemert, another fourth grade student. “And there’s going to be actual locks on our lockers so no one can get into them. Plus we’ll have a bigger cafeteria!”
“Once the high school teachers start moving their items into the new building, then our teachers can start coming in and putting their items in their new classrooms,” stated Foss. “The school district has a truck with a lift and the janitors will be moving most of the big stuff starting the first week in February.”
According to Kerrie Stansfield, Watford City Elementary School K-3 grades principal, the transition and move will allow the teachers and herself more time to work with each child individually, and involve the students’ families in more events that they have planned for the rest of the year.
“I will definitely miss the kids and teachers that are moving up to the old high school building tremendously,” stated Stansfield, “because they’re such good groups. But it’ll be exciting to have the fourth and fifth grades join together with the 6th grade so there’s more cohesiveness. Despite the move however, we’re not going to be any smaller at the elementary school.”
Even though the fourth and fifth-graders will move up to the old high school building, the elementary school will still be at capacity says both Foss and Stansfield. Every classroom will still be utilized and filled with students.
“Right now, our move really doesn’t give us more space for the K-3 grades,” said Foss. “We’re still using the whole building and every room for K-3. And those needs will have to be addressed in the future. The only thing the move does is give us space for the 4-6 grades to not be in modular classrooms. We are still at capacity with grades K-3.”
Once the transition takes place, it’s the school district’s intention to eliminate the modular classrooms currently located at the elementary school. The fifth grade portables will stay, however, temporarily, until they aren’t needed anymore. And then those classrooms will turn into interventionist and special education classrooms.
Once the fourth and fifth-graders make their transition next month into their new building and join the sixth-graders, each grade will be separated. Sixth grade will stay where they’ve been, in the south hallway of the second floor. Fifth grade will be in the opposite hallway of the sixth-graders, in the north hallway of the second floor. And the fourth-graders will take over the science wing, on the first floor.
“We’ll have to assign lockers to the fourth and fifth-graders when they move,” stated Foss. “Fourth grade will get the lockers by the science wing, while fifth grade will get the upstairs lockers. And sixth grade will keep the lockers they’re currently in. We will be moving a computer lab upstairs, right next to the teachers upstairs. And the Ag Department areas will most likely become janitorial and storage space.”
According to Foss, the additional open rooms in the old high school building will become interventionist rooms and break-out rooms for smaller groups of students. And as far as the daily schedule goes, Foss says there won’t be any major changes. The north end of the current student parking lot adjacent to the old high school building will become an outdoor playground area for recess time.
“A major concern for a lot of parents was where their children were going to get recess and a time to get out and stretch their legs with the new location,” said Foss. “So we are taking a part of the north end of the parking lot and making a cement playground out there. There will be a six-foot fence around it, with two portable basketball hoops, a soccer field, and other various games and sports areas. The new playground will be fully-functional on the first day of school in the new building.”
Once the move happens, there will be approximately 526 students in grades K-3 at the elementary school, 305 in the 4-6 grades in the old high school building, and 500 in the new high school building. Overall, even though the move will initiate a tremendous amount of work and coordination, administrators, teachers, and students are excited and looking forward to the positive change.
“I am looking forward to several things when we move to the new building,” said Mrs. Colby, a fourth grade teacher at Watford City Elementary School. “I am looking forward to not having to go outside to get back into the building. And the classrooms will be closer and together instead of across the parking lot. There’s a mixture of nervousness and excitement from the students. It’s a change for them and they’re not sure what to expect, but there’s a lot of anticipation and excitement in moving to a new building, a new classroom, and getting their own lockers.”
The real positive aspect of the move that Foss is looking forward to is being in a stable, maintained building versus a portable.
As part of the transition and to acclimate  students and their parents, a 4-6 grade Intermediate Open House has been scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the old high school building. Foss says there will be an ice cream social and tours of the building for students and their parents. And then at 7 p.m., Foss and  McKenzie County Public School District #1 Superintendent Steve Holen will address everyone in the gym.