Where will Neligh-Oakdale elementary title and special education students be next year? Possibly in a modular unit outside of West Ward.
The Neligh-Oakdale Board of Education plans to discuss and possibly take action on purchasing a modular at Monday’s 7 p.m. board meeting, which will be held following the elementary Reading Across America night. The board meeting is open to the public.
During last month’s Board of Education meeting, West Ward principal Mary Schrader, who oversees preschool through second grade, suggested purchasing a modular because the facility is out of approved classroom space.
The failed bond included constructing additional classrooms at West Ward, besides correcting the other deficiencies. Schrader said something needs to be done at West Ward, which is why she will discuss several options with the board - purchasing a new modular, purchasing a used modular or constructing new classrooms.
“Since (the bond) was defeated and there seems to be no plan in place for expansion over here, we just need to do something,” Schrader said. “We’re out of room."
The fire marshal’s orders indicated eight deficiency points for West Ward, including not having proper windows for rescue. That means, she said, the school is out of approved classroom space. For example, the Title classroom has no exits to the outside and has portable walls separating it from the preschool room.
Not only does it not meet life safety code, she said, but it’s also not a good learning environment. After all, many students in Title and Special Education are the most at-need students, but they receive assistance in West Ward’s loudest environments due to space limitations.
How distracting is the Title classroom? You decide. Here’s audio from the 10:15 a.m. reading group, where second-grade students were reading out loud one at a time. Listen To Audio
Schrader said speech services at West Ward are shuffled around to wherever space is available. On Thursday, speech was delivered on the floor of the multi-purpose room, in the nursing’s room and the resource room. Schrader said said the same thing happens on a daily basis with physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling and English Language Learners classes.
Space will be even more limiting next year at West Ward when second grade transitions back to having two classes due to larger numbers.
Schrader said the biggest question she hears is why is space a problem now when there used to be more students at West Ward. Schrader said there are more services offered now because of need, as well as all-day kindergarten being state mandated and the addition of the preschool program. Plus, the school’s reading mastery program needs more space for reading groups.
Although having preschool at West Ward limits classroom space, Schrader said it’s a great benefit for students and the community. Not only does it allow continuity among programs, it increases communication between faculty. Schrader said the preschool curriculum has changed and improved since moving to West Ward. There’s also the fiscal aspect of better utilizing staff and having closer ties with the resources for earlier detection of issues for quicker intervention, which saves the district money in the long run.
“The move from up on the hill basically saved one entire preschool teacher by moving down to this building,” she said. “We have a lot of special needs in our 3-year-old preschool class, so we have a para assist with reading mastery in the morning and then (in preschool) all afternoon.”
Neligh-Oakdale also offers school-wide Title throughout the elementary because more than 47 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. That means any student can utilize the Title program when they need extra help, which has been of great benefit to all students academically, Schrader said.
Without adequate space, West Ward Title students may have to be transported to East Ward, which would take away valuable classroom time.
All of those reasons are why Schrader said she will recommend purchasing a 32x80 feet modular that would have two classrooms, a boys and girls restroom and a water fountain. The best option academically and financially for Neligh-Oakdale, she said, is purchasing a used modular to allow Title and Special Education programs to remain at West Ward, as well as keep the valuable preschool program on site. She said the modular also holds its value and would be available for resale should the district choose to construct classrooms later.
Although the modular unit would help with approved classroom space, Schrader said that is just one aspect of the fire marshal’s orders at West Ward. She said there is still a dead-end corridor near the kindergarten room, needed sidewalks around the facility, exit windows and fire rated doors. Another area that needs construction work will be an exit from the basement. Currently, the exit leads students to a storage room behind the multi-purpose room, not an outside exit.
Monday’s board meeting will also include possible action to approve student occupancy in the basement of East Ward and the letter of response to the state fire marshal, which will be based upon the recommendation of the Building and Ground Committee. That is made of board members Ryan Koinzan, David Wright and Kenny Reinke, along with community members Cory Furstenau and Ron Gilg, who were specifically invited by Koinzan to be part of the advisory committee. No other community members serve on the committee.
To view the Board’s plans of correction to be discussed on Monday, click here. The plan goes through each correction but does not specify how the district plans to pay for the corrections or how the corrections will be implemented.