ST. PETER — As St. Peter Public Schools officials examine potential solutions to the crowding issues, South Elementary Early Learning Center and North Intermediate staff have come up with creative ways to maximize their space.
The South situation
At South, classrooms are spacious, and class sizes are 18-19 kids per kindergarten section; 20-21 for first-grade sections; and 22-23 per second-grade section. For these grade levels, Principal Darin Doherty said the class sizes need to stay at these numbers.
“We want to keep it that way for the way we instruct,” he said, adding that larger class sizes are not the best learning environments. “We know that's not what's best for kids.”
With a K-2 population of 463 students this year, Doherty and Ytive Prafke, district special programs administrator, both said most of the stress of space constraints is felt by the teachers and administration, not by the students. The reason for using unique building spaces is to ensure that the kids are still receiving the kind of instruction and lessons they want them to have.
“We utilize hallways, entryways, the cafeteria,” Doherty said. “Wherever we can find space.”
The Early Childhood Special Education program now takes up the entire lower level of the school. Two sections are taught in classrooms and Nick Moeller's is held in the theater room, which does not have ready access to running water or a bathroom, Prafke said. (The state requires a maximum of eight students per section, with one teacher and one paraprofessional.)
The program's SMART lessons are being provided in the hallway. The students are taken upstairs to the cafeteria several days a week for physical education class (because the gym is occupied by K-2 students). And on days they don't have phy-ed, they come out into the hallway to get their brains fired up for learning through some motor activities, such as “spinning, jumping, rolling and balancing,” said ECSE Teacher Mariah Myhra.