Saline Area Schools is looking for short-term and long-term solutions to a classroom crunch at Heritage Elementary School.
After students graduate from Pleasant Ridge, Harvest and Woodland Meadows elementary schools, they move on to Heritage, which teaches fourth and fifth grade students. A couple of years ago, to address a class size issue, Heritage added another fourth grade classroom. But now the school needs more room to address the needs of special education students.
The discuss the issue with the forum the district hosted a forum at Heritage April 18. At that forum, which attracted about 40 people, the district presented four options.
- Move the districts third grade classes to Heritage and move the fifth grade classes to Saline Middle School.
- Expand two sections of Heritage Elementary School to Woodland Meadows.
- Use portable classrooms.
- Expand special education programming to Liberty School or Saline Middle School.
The option to shift third grade classes to Heritage and fifth grades classes to the middle school received positive feedback. But Graden said the shift might leave Heritage with the same space issues.
Moving some Heritage classes to Woodland Meadows also received positive feedback. Graden noted that there will be more space at Woodland Meadows because the preschool program, Pooh Corner, is moving to Liberty School. Graden noted that when the two schools, located across the parking lot from each other, had a similar arrangement when they opened. This option would require the least amount of bricks and mortar alterations. The downside, Graden said, would be the perception created by separating some Heritage students from their school.
Graden said there is no perfect solution, but the most well-received option was to move a couple of sections to Woodland Meadows. Board Vice President Paul Hynek said that such a scenario might allow the creation of special programming for Heritage students at Woodland Meadows. Hynek mentioned computer coding as an example.
After conversations with parents at staff at the forum, Graden said a fifth option emerged. The district could alter existing space in Heritage for a short-term solution to the issue.
“Renovations inside the envelope of this building could be done at a relatively low cost to create additional space to use for a variety of programs,” Graden said.
For example, Graden said, a temporary wall could be constructed to divide the media center/library and create a new classroom.
“What we do now may be a bridge to a long-term solution,” Graden said.
The district hopes to get an estimate for such a project early this week. The district is also looking at other spaces in the building where space can be created.
Long-term, the district is looking at some bricks-and-mortar options at Heritage. That could involve an addition which would open for the 2018-19 school year.
Graden said the portable classrooms option could be accomplished quickly and was positively received because it kept the Heritage community together. The portable classrooms might be used to teach “specials,” such as art or music. Addressing the downside, Graden pointed to the cost and safety and security issues.
“We’ve invested heavily in making sure buildings are secure. It’s very hard to effectively secure portable classrooms,” Graden said.
Moving some special education to the middle school or Liberty School would allow the district to use available space. But, Graden said, those buildings are further away.
“We would not necessarily keep all Heritage students together,” Graden said.
The number of students enrolled in special education hasn’t increased, according to Graden. But some students have needs that require more space.
Graden said Special Education Director Molly Garcia has been studying numbers and needs and looking at options to design programs for students with particularly specific needs. Such programming might be offered at the middle school in a learning space specifically designed for the students.
“It would allow the students to be in the environment best for them, in terms of allowing their behaviors to be managed effectively so the focus can be on learning,” Graden said.