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Hillcrest 5th grade move to EMS gets school board nod

A switch of fifth graders from Hillcrest Elementary School to Ellsworth Middle School beginning this fall was approved by the local school board Monday.

The move was originally proposed to the board last month because of overcrowded conditions at Hillcrest. Monday, Superintendent Dan Kaler again reviewed some of the space problems there, including reduced library space and music classes being taken room-to-room.

"A letter will be sent to parents explaining the move," Kaler said, adding an extensive orientation will be held at EMS in August plus the coming term's fifth graders from Hillcrest will be invited to visit the middle school before the next term.

Among other issues the superintendent addressed are the locker arrangement, which will have the two sections of fifth graders (approximately 52 students) using lockers next to those of the sixth graders. The fifth graders will eat lunch and take recess with the sixth graders, though the former will have an additional recess. Lunch prices for the fifth graders will remain on the elementary schedule, not the secondary schedule, however.

When the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program and the all-day kindergarten program were implemented locally, these contributed to outgrowing the Hillcrest building, Board Member Gerald Bristol said. Bristol indicated he favors both of these programs, but wanted the reality of the situation to be recognized.

Kaler agreed, also noting special education programs have been a contributing factor. The fifth graders will be in two self-contained classrooms, he said.

Another facility transfer first heard last month won board approval Monday as well. As a result, school officials will start integrating the maintenance department, presently housed in the Ames Business Center (former junior high school), into district buildings.

This will involve moving maintenance office and storage space to room 192 at the high school (once used for similar purposes in the past), Kaler said. One of two chiller rooms at the middle school will be modified to accommodate maintenance, along with an area at the bus garage, where a concrete slab will be poured and storage racks relocated.