DECLO — Sometimes moving forward means leaving things behind.
Declo Elementary School teachers are experiencing a few growing pains this week as the third through fifth grade classrooms shift to the new portion of the school.
“Some of the teachers are feeling a bit of nostalgic about the move this week,” Principal Kevin Lloyd said. “Letting go is hard for some of our teachers. It’s been an emotional transition for them.”
Fourth grade teacher Summer Gallup said the teachers aren’t able to move any of the old furniture into the new building and leaving behind favorite pieces is hard.
“The move is kind of a love-hate thing because we can’t bring our own furniture,” Gallup said. “It’s going to be a change, that’s for sure.”
A new teacher’s desk she recently purchased will not go to her new classroom and neither will her reading tent or her plush reading chairs.
“I hope I can make it welcoming in here for the students,” she said.
She will also have to figure out how to scale down eight bookshelves to one.
“If you’ve only been a teacher a couple of years, moving is probably easier because you have accumulated less stuff,” said Gallup, who has been a teacher for 11 years.
One of the appreciated changes is a wall lined with whiteboard and a projector system.
“We’ve been begging for whiteboards,” she said. “And I like that the desks aren’t wobbly or written on and that the student chairs are bigger.”
Her old classroom windows were about a quarter of the size her new ones.
That’s a big plus, she said.
The $37 million construction bond included plans to build an entire new elementary school to replace the open-concept 1970s building that had room dividers instead of walls between the classrooms, but those plans were scaled down into two phases after officials discovered a $15 million shortfall in funds necessary to complete all the projects in the district.
“All the projects in the district have come in on budget,” district spokeswoman Debbie Critchfield said.
Costs for the first phase of the elementary school are $5.4 million and all the Declo projects tally $7 million.
The first phase of the elementary added a 30,000-square-foot building onto the main building and includes nine classrooms, a gym, restrooms, computer lab, administration offices and a nurse station, which was lacking in the other building.
All of the spaces come with wider hallways, taller ceilings and much more open space.
“We are trading two bathrooms in the old building for eight bathrooms in the new,” Lloyd said.
The library has a skylight, a door that opens to a courtyard and a locking storage area.
The library will not be moved until Friday to keep it open as long as possible and allow students to check out books to read during the Christmas break.
The old hallway is married to the new space via a connector that will eventually be torn down after the second phase is completed.
“It’s comical how much of an upgrade there is between the old and the new,” Lloyd said.
The new portion will house 225 third through fifth graders. Grades kindergarten through second will remain in the main portion of the building until more construction money is available to build the remaining classrooms.
“This old building will eventually come down,” Lloyd said. “But we tried to do as much as we could for the money we had and I think they did a really good job.”
Eventually the second phase will add another bank of classrooms, restrooms and an additional computer lab. The lunchroom will remain in a separate building but a warming kitchen will be added off the gym where meals can be served.
Since most of the school was built during the first phase the cost for the second phase will be substantially less, Critchfield said.
Although the move to the new portion will be accomplished before the Christmas break the new portion of the building will not be occupied until after students resume classes on Jan. 2.
The classrooms they are moving out of are in a separate building, which will be given to Declo Junior High School.
Having two classroom buildings created a myriad of security problems for the elementary school, Lloyd said, because the doors had to be left unlocked between the buildings so students could go back and forth from classrooms to the library, music class or computer lab.
The unlocked doors often meant parents would circumvent the front office when visiting classrooms.
“Security has always been an issue at this school,” Lloyd said.
Now there is an enclosed foyer at the administration offices where visitors will have to check in before entering the school, which will also help with security.
Upgrades at DJHS are also complete, which included a new commons area linking the junior high to the elementary building and opening a bottle neck in a hallway, Critchfield said.
The building will give the junior high students more class space and areas to gather.