Feb 22, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterSuperintendent Terry Snyder said he couldn't believe it when he heard Rendezvous Elementary School staff had come up with a plan to accommodate even more third- through fifth-graders in the school building next year without the use of a modular structure.
"I didn't think they could do it," Snyder said during a Fremont County School District 25 Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 12. "I thought, 'That's not possible because of the square footage we need.' ... I'm still not sure how it happened. They did some magic."
The school on North Fourth Street West, which previously housed Riverton's fourth- and fifth-graders, was remodeled last summer to hold the city's third-graders as well. Officials said the move brought the district closer to the state's 16:1 student-teacher ratio requirement for grades K-3.
The change also brought about 200 extra students to the school, and Snyder said he expects another increase next year.
"We are going to have more students coming in than are leaving," he said.
Enrollment numbers show there are more than 220 second-graders enrolled in Riverton schools this year compared to 180 fifth-graders.
"That's going to take three (more classrooms)," Snyder said. "Two additional ones for third grade, (and) we're going to add a fifth-grade classroom to balance out the fourth and fifth grades."
He said the older classes will average a student-teacher ratio of about 22.5:1.
Rendezvous assistant principal Sheryl Esposito said she worked with the whole team at the school to design a layout that would help everyone feel included.
"We want everybody to be together so they feel like they're part of the building," Esposito said. "When you're out in a modular you don't feel like you're part of the staff."
She said teachers were willing to move to smaller rooms if it meant no one was asked to work in a portable structure.
"It really has been a team effort," Esposito said. "We've all been in situations where you're separate from the staff. ... Nobody wants that."
Board members agreed, commending Esposito for the plan that requires six room moves and six building changes. Snyder said the changes should be covered by major maintenance funds with assistance from the School Facilities Commission.
"The critical part is, can we get it done," he said, showing board members a map of next year's Rendezvous design.
According to the plan, which board members approved during Tuesday's meeting, the new fifth-grade classroom will be in the northeast corner of the building along with the school's other fifth-grade sections. Snyder said two rooms that were used by the school nurse and as office space will be renovated to house the two new third-grade classrooms next year.
"Those two areas will take the most reconstruction," Snyder said. "Then a lot of domino effects take place."
The school nurse and office space will move to a room on the east side of the building that was designated for reading intervention this year; Snyder said the building's front entrance will be moved back to the east side of the property as well.
"Those will be the secured entry ways with vestibules and buzz-in systems," Snyder said, adding, "(The west entrance) is just going to be delivery now, and those will be locked down."
Reading intervention will be moved to the space that held the school social worker this year, and the social worker's office is going to be nearby in space that was used for storage this year.
Board member Larry Christensen said he was happy to see the no-modular plan, but Snyder pointed out that a temporary structure still may be required in the future as Riverton's third- through fifth-grade population continues to grow.
"I don't want to disregard that (possibility)," Snyder said.
Esposito has studied the crop of younger students enrolled in Riverton schools, and she said each upcoming grade seems to get bigger.
"They just keep coming at us," she said. "We'll see what next year brings."
Snyder said he will keep the board informed on any changes that arise with the situation at Rendezvous, which he called a "focal point of the district."
"We need facilities as quickly as possible," he said. "There's no doubt about it, and this (map) illustrates it one more time."
Staff and board members will meet Feb. 28 with architects commissioned by the SFC to assess the district's space needs for the future.
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