Dexter Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Timmis held a public forum this past Monday, Nov. 6 in Mill Creek cafeteria, in which he gave a glimpse into the new elementary school and other projects.
The school bond voted on and passed by voters last August will not only provide for a new elementary school, but upgrades throughout the Dexter Community Schools campus.
Dr. Timmis opened with a schedule of projects as a result of funding from the recent bond approval.
Here are some of the details and highlights from the informative meeting in no particular order:
The new kindergarten through second grade elementary school is set to be completed by December 2018.
The Bond will be sold in stages, as funds are needed for various projects. As Bonds are released, taxpayers then begin shouldering the interest. Selling it in stages prevents taxpayers from having to take on the whole interest cost immediately. This staged approach is saving taxpayers $44 million in interest.
School Board President, Michael Wendorf, also added that due to refinancing taxpayers have been saved another $2.5 million.
The new elementary school will be connected to Cornerstone, but the two buildings will be two separate schools with two principles and administrative staff. The reason for this was explained by Dr. Timmis as a school of “eight to nine-hundred students is just too big for one principal.”
Note: All the drawings in this article are conceptual intended to present a visual idea of the project.
The new elementary school is yet to be named.
One kitchen will serve both schools.
The middle space where the two schools are connected is two “flexible learning” spaces.
One of these flexible learning spaces is dubbed “Market Place” which teachers can use as break out sessions for curriculum units they’re working on with students.
The other flexible learning space will be called “The Workshop.” This space will be set up and used for thematic learning. For example, if the school wide theme is Space then the area could be set up with planets, posters, and other visual and experiential teaching tools for students to engage. Currently for such units, teachers and students must arrange and rearrange the room constantly in an effort to vary the learning experience.
A question was asked as to what would become of Bates Elementary. Dr. Timmis explained that Bates will be used to expand the preschool program.
Another question was raised as to what will happen when this large group of 800-900 kids move onward and upward into the other schools. It was answered by Jerry Brand of Granger Construction that the existing facilities beyond the elementary schools can accommodate student populations of this size.
Upgrades to the Middle Schools and High School will largely involve the creation of flexible learning spaces. There are large, writeable surfaces and space to afford students variation from the traditional rows of chairs and desks that are the classroom norm.
High School teachers rarely teach in rows of chairs and tables any more. The shift in recent years has been to find creative ways to teach. One method is the creation of simulations which flexible learning spaces make possible.
Long-standing Board member, Dick Lundy, made the comment to the audience that “All these designs are planned by getting input from the users, other districts and other professionals in the field. It’s not just something we thought up ourselves.”
Dr. Timmis stated that several million dollars have been set aside just to replace furniture. Creekside furniture was bought in the 70’s and 80’s. “It’s indestructible,” he explained “but isn’t adapted to today’s teaching.”
There will be two new turf fields with lights ready to use by Aug 1, 2018. The fields will be soccer-sized, the largest sport field, so that other sports can also be played on them. There will be restrooms and bleachers.
The turf fields will be primarily for practice and community sports use. High school sports will play their games on Al Ritt Field.
There is more than 600 acres of grass in the Dexter School system maintained by three people.