Building project anticipated at St. Paul’s Elementary

NEW ULM – A prospective building project is key among several new developments at St. Paul’s Lutheran Elementary School.

The school is in the process of conferencing with architects to develop a financially realistic plan that would fulfill its needs, Principal Greg Thiesfeldt reports.

School leaders hope that this plan will include renovations and upgrades to the existing building; additional classrooms for early childhood and day care; an administration/main office area near the main entrance; and a second gymnasium.

The renovation as such will include projects such as: an elevator; projects that add esthetic appeal (ceilings, floors); an enhanced (new or remodeled) entryway; a relocation of the main offices to place them right by the main entrance; a fire suppression system; and a central air-conditioning system.

The driving force behind the project has been a need to expand the early childhood education program, recounts Thiesfeldt.

The first stage of this expansion is happening already, in blended sessions for three- and four-year olds. Pre-school enrollment has increased to 39 as of Aug. 25, and a paraprofessional has been added to the program, to assist with groups with more than 10 children.

The school would like to have at least two classrooms for pre-K classes and a room for high-quality day care, adds Thiesfeldt.

The school would also like to add a second gym, to more easily meet state physical education standards and also to eliminate the need for athletic practices fairly late in the evening.

Thiesfeldt is hopeful that a larger original wish-list of desirable upgrades (which includes new kitchens, commons areas, locker and storage spaces) will get streamlined to manageable dimensions in the next six months. Renovations would start, at the earliest, a year from now, projects Thiesfeldt.

In other developments:

Pre-K to 8 enrollment was 323 (283 in grades K-8) as of late August. The number was still changing.

K-8 enrollment has increased about 25 percent since 2009, and Thiesfeldt expects it to level out around 300, over the next few years.

One trend is increased enrollment, across the grades, by non-church-members. It has generally been initially driven by interest in the pre-school.

The school has three new teachers. Two of them replace retiring teachers, and one has been added to accommodate the enrollment increase.

A paraprofessional was also added in the pre-school; and the school has a new head cook and assistant.

The school is expanding its one-to-one laptop program to grades five and six, by purchasing 67 Chrome Books and three storage units.

The change comes with an online program: online textbooks and related resources. The new resources will be specifically used in implementing state social studies (history, geography and world studies) standards in grades 5-8. The school has made curriculum revisions to more closely align the curriculum to the newest state standards.

Grades K-4 are adopting a different mathematics series, Saxon Math. It is already being used in grades 5-8. The switch brings uniformity and continuity to the mathematics curriculum school-wide.

Four more interactive white boards were installed in classrooms. Now all classrooms are equipped with Smartboard technology.

Thirty-three more lockers were installed to accommodate the enrollment changes.

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