BROOKINGS – The Brookings School District must soon start making decisions on how to proceed with its comprehensive facility plan.
After the options were narrowed and explained, this week’s school board meeting was packed with Camelot Intermediate School staff urging that each of the grades remain as they are in their current buildings.
The district has three choices that would dictate school buildings’ futures.
Additionally, TSP architects will be present at a public forum at 6 p.m. Monday, July 24, in the Brookings High School commons to review the comprehensive facility plan report and present their recommendations. The public is encouraged to attend the event.
Three plans down to two
Each plan would cost roughly the same, ranging from $50 million to $52.3 million.
The first option would expand school district facilities the most overall in terms of square footage but would keep each of the grades at the same building where they are now located.
The big difference with option two is that third-graders would be moved to Camelot, joining the fourth- and fifth-graders there. This would mean each of the school buildings in the Brookings School District would have at least three grades.
The third option had the most significant change in the location of grades within the school buildings. It proposed making Camelot into a fourth elementary school, and then making all the elementary schools pre-K-5 facilities.
However, after hearing feedback from the public, Brookings School District Superintendent Klint Willert told the school board members on Monday night that the third option was no longer a serious consideration, effectively off the table.
“We’ve taken input that suggests that would be the thing that brings us collectively back together in a shared vision of where we go with our shared facilities,” Willert said.
Most of the Camelot staff present, concerned about the third option, could then rest a little easier with that option off the table. Those who took to the microphone did still voice their opposition to a pre-K-5 arrangement to ensure that door was truly shut.
Among other things, questions about how the district would handle the number of instructional, programming and operational changes that would go along with dividing up the fourth- and fifth-graders proved too big of an obstacle for most of those present to lend their support to such a plan.
Third grade to Camelot?
With that issue settled, the school board asked those present why third-graders shouldn’t be put alongside fourth- and fifth-graders at Camelot.
Roger DeGroot pointed to TSP’s recommendation summary, which said, “The challenge is to project the future of Camelot as those two grades grow beyond the capacity of the expandable building and its site, since expanding by an additional grade on the east side of the core was an unacceptable impact to the site in the Visioning Committee’s consensus opinion. Clearly expanding additional educational spaces for the current two grades to this east side will also be a challenge to the successful and cohesive culture of Camelot.”
“With those two above-mentioned negative impacts – not enough room, can’t build on to meet the needs of the third grade – I don’t think the board should even consider what was brought for you tonight,” DeGroot said. “In my opinion, there is only one recommendation that makes any sense logically, and that’s to keep things as they are.”
Keep as is
There were considerations beyond the physical constraints of the Camelot building’s location, too.
Susan Turnipseed – who was a fourth-grade teacher for 34 years, starting at Medary before moving to Camelot – argued that there was a significant enough difference between third-graders and their fourth- and fifth-grade peers to warrant keeping things as they are now.
“Someone needs to prove to me that it’s not working in the present configuration,” she added.
A Flandreau K-4 counselor and former intern at Camelot, Marissa Stone agreed that the differences between third-graders and the other two grades are real.
“I would say the maturity level does increase a lot in the fourth grade. … The needs of the fourth-graders are much greater, I would say, than the needs of the third grade, socially,” she said.
She added, “My fourth-graders that I work with definitely know more, are growing. … Their knowledge becomes more worldly, and they get to see and hear things a lot differently and they take things a lot differently as well.”
From a strictly academic perspective, moving third-graders beside fourth- and fifth-graders could work, former Hillcrest Principal Kathie Tuntland said.
“The biggest thing is your pre-K through second grade is really a lot of that learning to read and very primary. Third grade is intermediate.”
However, she agreed that developmental differences mean it might be best to keep third-graders with the younger grades, adding that “being the oldest kids in the building is a great situation for them.”
Staffing could also be an issue for option two. She believed that another administrator at Camelot would be necessary with the additional grade’s presence.
“You cannot handle all those students, the parents, the behavior issues that you see. So you better be budgeting that kind of thing as it is, because the more children that you have,” the more behavioral issues that will have to be addressed, Tuntland said.
Thankful for the night’s turnout and feedback, members of the school board encouraged the audience and the wider public to attend the 6 p.m. Monday, July 24, public forum at the Brookings High School commons. There, the architects from TSP will present its final recommendations to the public. All community members are welcome to attend.
Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected]