Third graders appear to be getting along just fine in their temporary classrooms at New Life Church.
Students at North Elementary School were moved to three locations within the school district – including New Life Church – after a snowplow truck smashed through a block wall at North Elementary on Feb. 10 causing a malfunction of mechanical systems and a shutdown of the building until repairs are made.
North principal John Beach said he hopes the necessary repairs are made at North Elementary so students and staff can return to the school on February 25.
Classes began taking place outside of North Elementary on February 13. The third grade (about 235 students) was sent to New Life Church in Princeton, while the 250-260 fourth graders were sent to the middle school and the same number of fifth graders transferred to the high school. Special education students were sent to a classroom at South Elementary.
It appears that just about every space at New Life Church, from its coffee room, to its balcony spaces and sanctuary, are being used to provide temporary classrooms for North Elementary’s third graders.
“When we were thinking of one of the biggest places in town, that one (New Life Church) came up,” Beach said. “We wanted a place to hold at least one whole grade level.”
New Life is not set up as a school so some of the rooms are pretty small, but flexibility is in play, Beach said. An example of flexibility is that the school district’s food service is making box lunches for the third graders. The students eat them in the church gym, one of the places set up with temporary classrooms.
Setting everything up at New Life Church “went pretty smoothly,” Beach said. The most challenging part was informing the parents and teachers about the situation, Beach said. The district used its telephone instant-alert system and sent out letters.
Third graders speak
Here is what a number of third graders said about having their classrooms at New Life Church:
Dalton Wille – “I’m pretty excited because I’ve been here for church.” Wille called the first few days of school at the church “kind of weird” in the sense of not having the normal schedule that was at North.
Tanner Reis – “Well, when I first came here, I was thinking, ‘No way, I don’t want to be here.’ It turned out way cool. At North Elementary we eat on a tray and here, we have a bag lunch and eat on the floor. At North Elementary people tell us where you have to sit. Here we sit with different classes and friends and stuff.”
Reis said he especially likes the church’s sanctuary for class work. North Elementary does not have a TV and here they do,” Reis added. He went on to contrast the church having two stories, versus having one level at North. He also liked being able to choose where to sit in class.
Evan Grambart – “I think it’s pretty nice because I come here every Sunday. It’s a lot better than North Elementary because it’s bigger. All these seats (in the sanctuary) and we watch movies sometimes. There was one movie about a dog and a cat.”
Alyssa Spicer – “I thought it would be pretty cool, a lot of fun because we’d do a lot of activities.” Asked if that turned out, Alyssa answered: “Sometimes we play in the parking lot. I like it here. It’s always super good.”
Colton Miller – “Well, at North Elementary there’s not a theater. Here there is. We go to watch movies and stuff (here). We got to see (the movie) Milo and Otis.” Miller also likes playing in the church’s parking lot and sliding down its snowbanks and likes having a TV in every room. One more plus for Miller at New Life is having couches in his room in the gym and not having to walk to a cafeteria.
Amber Lemm – “I think it’s real cool, because well, this (sanctuary) room is very cool. You don’t really see this in a church that much.” Lemm also likes New Life’s snowbanks to play in and not having to move much to have lunch.
Abby Mullen – “It’s pretty cool because we get a gym for a classroom and we get to play a lot of games…and get to go outside to play.” Abby likes the turkey and cheese sandwiches in the box lunches.
Cameron Lehmann – Cameron talked about the small classroom and the tables, and having to use pens at New Life versus pencils at North. Using pens makes it hard to erase, he said. Cameron also likes the snowbanks for a playground, and mentioned the different routine for boarding buses at the end of the school day.
“It’s just great the church opened up its doors and has gone out of its way to get us things to make it as smooth as can be,” said third grade teacher Dianne Greenwood. If the staff members have forgotten to bring some supplies, the church staff obtains them for the teachers, Greenwood noted.
“They let us rearrange the rooms to fit our needs, and better yet, they keep the coffee coming in the lounge,” Greenwood added. Third grade teacher Ryan Rysavy, who had just finished giving a grammar lesson, said it’s been interesting because for him it’s like “old school” teaching in the New Life spaces. He explained that he is using a white board with markers at the church in contrast to using electronic smart boards at North Elementary. Because of that, “you’ve got to think of different ways of engaging the kids,” Rysavy said.
The one exception to lack of advanced technology was that his students still had their iPads at their desks and were using them.
Rysavy also talked about the “helpful staff” at New Life and told his students that 20 years from now when they are 30, they will remember the time they had their classes at a church.
Third grade teacher Tom Tschumper echoed the other teachers’ words about the assistance they received from the New Life staff.
“I think it’s gone really well,” said North Elementary secretary Kim Myers, who was using a long table as her desk in the church lobby. She talked about the “really understanding parents,” and how some of them have called in to compliment the job being done in holding classes at New Life Church. Also, the kids “have been doing super,” Myers said. “It’s going better than expected.”