ST. PETER — Paraprofessional Bridget Klein and a preschool student duck behind a filing cabinet and work on reciting some numbers.
Behind the two, several tiered rows of theater chairs sit empty. On the other side of the cabinet, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher Nick Moeller is busy with half a dozen chattering students at South Elementary Early Learning Center in St. Peter.
Moeller has taught at South for five years. But this year he had to make some adjustments. Due to increased enrollment in the elementary grades, a serious lack of space at South meant that Moeller had to leave a traditional classroom setting and move his class into the theater room on the lower level of the building.
School-wide programs used to take place here. Teachers and parents would gather in the theater seats to watch their kids give presentations.
Now Moeller focuses on trying to keep his curious little explorers out of those theater seats and within the confines of the makeshift boundaries of the main floor area.
“It's been an adjustment,” Moeller said. “But we're making it work.”
Moeller's class is one example of many creative, temporary solutions happening at South and North Intermediate in St. Peter. Lessons are taking place in hallways. A corner of the cafeteria has been turned into a K-2 program space. Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) students also are having to use the cafeteria for physical education space.
“We're using every space possible,” said Principal Darin Doherty.
With a projected enrollment increase of about 1 to 2 percent per year, St. Peter Public Schools is in the midst of examining future needs, said Supt. Jeff Olson. A facilities task force has been studying space needs to determine the best course of action, which could include a new high school building and re-purposing of space in the existing facilities.