Changes in education require more space, superintendent says.
The David City Elementary building would grow by nearly 6,000 square feet if a $1.2 million expansion is approved in coming months.
The David City Public Schools Board is set to consider the expansion at its meeting on July 10 at 7 p.m.
Built in 1960, the home of grades K-6 was last expanded with a new gym, new school office and art room facilities before the 2012 school year.
That expansion ended the long tradition of spending part of physical education periods moving students to the high school gym. It also gave students a dedicated art room, so the art instructor didn’t have to move from room to room.
The proposed expansion is intended to provide space that is now lacking for special education, speech pathology, school nurse and other space requirements that have changed over the past decade or so.
Superintendent Chad Denker said the addition would not require an increase in the district's property tax levy.
“We currently levy approximately $1.1 million into the building fund each year so we would pay for the project mainly out of the building fund,” he said. “The addition would start in March of 2018 and be done in August of 2018 in time for the school year - in theory. The cafeteria portion would have to be done in order to serve breakfast and lunch.”
Denker said the building space hasn't kept up with changes in education. DCPS is responsible for all special education services in the district for all children from birth to age 21.
"We are providing many more services than what was occurring when the school was built. For example, we have school psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and early childhood specialists - just to name a few - all working with students to improve the quality of their education. A lot of which was not required when the school was first built," he said. "No one could have imagined needing or using all of those professions in a school system years ago. The program needs of both our regular and special education students are growing and changing and we require more space to make it all happen. This addition will ensure that we have the room we need for the foreseeable future."
Here is a summary of the expansion proposal:
*Expand cafeteria seating by 40-by-24 feet. This will increase the number of students having lunch at one time and end the practice of starting some students' lunches at 10:50 a.m. High school lunch periods would be cut from three to two.
*Add three special education classrooms: Either three 30-by-28-foot rooms or four 30-by-21-feet rooms. Denker said this will free up two current special education classrooms for a guidance office and conference room in one and Title I reading classroom in the other. The space also would involve shuffling some other space needs: Title 1, storage for the backpack program, teacher work rooms, nurse’s office, staff break room, and a new requirement: a space for women who are breastfeeding.
In advance of the expansion, Denker said, the school will have three special education teachers in the elementary to match the needs of the students, but there will be only two classrooms for them.
The potential extra special education classroom would give the para-educators a place to work in small groups while occupational therapists and physical therapists have a place to work with students.
*Add four offices of 15-by-10-feet each and a conference room of 20-by-15 feet.
This would provide space for two speech pathologists, a school psychologist and a special services director. It also moves special education offices away from the noise of the cafeteria.
Further, it puts a second administrator in that building, Denker said. Moving the special services director office from the high school creates a breastfeeding room at the high school. By moving the school psychologist to the elementary, the high school speech pathologist does not have to share an office with school psychologist. The current arrangement does not work well when both are working or testing students at the same time
*Add another walk in cooler, 8-by-12 feet, so the district can store beef it purchases from local producers. The local beef program is a new initiative to get more local food items into the school lunch.
Denker said the expansion would make the elementary a more complete facility.
"I really think this will secure our elementary needs for a long time because both Bellwood and David City elementaries would be in great shape, space-wise. We can then focus on the long term needs at David City High School," he said.