By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - There was a whirlwind of activity going on in the Iron Mountain School District during the summer months to get ready for some major changes to start the school year.
Theresa Proudfit/Daily News Photo
Fourth graders, from left, Chianna Wilson, Raegan Mullikin, and Serenity Jones look at a book about hurricanes and tornados in the East Elementary library.
First and foremost, the district completely moved 75 percent of its classrooms during the summer to make up grade-like classes in the same buildings this year. All of the students in early kindergarten through the third grade are now at North Elementary School, moving over those classes from Central Elementary.
Next, the students in grades 4-6 were all moved to East Elementary School, which hadn't been used by the school district for four years. And finally, the middle school students from Central School were moved to the B floor at Iron Mountain High School. The other three floors of the high school are used by students in grades 9-12.
"This has been a major accomplishment to get entire classrooms moved and ready for the opening of school on Sept. 3. It went remarkably well, and the result has been wonderful - the changes are working fabulously," said Supt. Tom Jayne.
Moving the middle schoolers to the high school building has meant that they are spending less time this year going back and forth between buildings as was the case last year. Now the students only leave the building to go to gym or band or for lunch at the Central School cafeteria.
"It was really a safety issue as well as lost classroom time with all the moving around. The middle school transition has gone very smooth and I haven't received one complaint about bullying or safety issues. With this move, we have reduced student traffic by 90 percent during the day. And the traffic at the end and beginning of the day has been greatly reduced with less students in the downtown location," Jayne said.
Having entire classes in one building has worked out well for the teachers as well as the students, Jayne added. "This is the first time in the history of the Iron Mountain Schools that we have all the same class grades in one building. At East, grades 4-6 have a real playground, more green space around the school, and less traffic. The teachers and students are happy to have their fellow students/colleagues all together under one roof."
The idea of having like classes in the same building was brought up to Jayne when he came on board as superintendent.
"It was a request that we were able to grant after physically moving 300,000 square feet or 75 percent of the district's 400,000 square feet of classrooms this summer. That meant not only moving classrooms, but school desks, materials, libraries and kitchens. And it really went off well allowing us to make that move by the start of the school year," he said.
Jayne stopped in to visit some of the middle school classrooms once school started and talked with the students to see how they feel about the changes that were made.
"They all indicated that they were doing well with the move. To help with the transition, some of the high school students volunteered to help the middle school students find classrooms and make those first weeks run smoother," he said.
And similar responses have been made as a reaction to moving elementary classes into the two school buildings. "This had never been done before - putting grade-like classes in the same buildings in the Iron Mountain School District. The results are positive - I've received great comments from staff, students and parents," Jayne said.
"The playground at East Elementary has been a big hit. The safety factors at both schools are better with students not having to travel out of the building to get to lunch or go to gym and music classes," he added. "In the past, 66 percent of the kids in K-5 were at one school and 33 percent were in the other. This change has given teachers the ability to collaborate with one another on a daily basis on a building and grade level."
One of the challenges for this year is dealing with fewer students in the school district - 49 less than estimated at the end of last year.
"Declining enrollment has been a major challenge for the district to face. We were estimating having a total of 941 students in the school district this year and ended up with 892 to start out the year. This equates to less revenue coming into the school district," Jayne noted.
Enrollment for North Elementary School is 242 students in grades early kindergarten through the third grade. There are 21 students in early kindergarten; classes of 24 and 25 in kindergarten; 27 in both sections of first grade; 30 and 29 students in second grade and 29 and 30 students in the two sections of third grade.
At East Elementary School, grades 4-6 total 185 students. There are three sections of fourth grade with 22, 23, and 25 students; two sections of fifth grade with 29 students in each; and 29 and 28 students in the two classes for sixth grade.
Middle school numbers for grades 7-8 total 159 students with 81 in seventh and 78 in eighth grade.
At Iron Mountain High School, there are 305 students in grades 9-12. This includes 70 freshmen, 77 sophomores, 87 juniors and 71 seniors.
Linda Lobeck's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.