Amanda Crowder showed up at Ramsey Elementary School on Wednesday night admittedly “a little freaked out.”
Like the parents of about 300 incoming kindergarten students in the Coeur d’Alene School District, Crowder recently learned her son, Braeden, will attend a kindergarten center in the fall, instead of his neighborhood school.
“I was looking forward to traditional elementary school setting,” Crowder said. “Then, in a matter of two weeks, I learn about this.”
The school board voted Feb. 9 to open the Kindercenter at the former Hayden Lake Elementary School to alleviate crowding in its northern schools.
Parents like Crowder filled the bleachers at Ramsey Elementary on Wednesday for a question-and-answer session with district officials. The school will house only kindergartners from the district’s three largest elementaries – Atlas, Ramsey and Skyway.
“We hope this will take care of our needs at least for the next three years,” said Pam Pratt, the director of elementary education.
Most parents had concerns about transportation and the safety of the old elementary school at the busy intersection of Government Way and Hayden Avenue. The school was shuttered in 2005 when Atlas Elementary opened.
But the schools in the northwest part of the district have continued to grow – Atlas, Ramsey and Skyway are all at or above capacity with about 600 students each, said Superintendent Hazel Bauman.
“Our forecast is that more students will be coming,” she said.
The concept of a kindergarten center arose in 2005 on the heels of a failed facilities levy that would have paid for a new elementary school in the north. A committee suggested revising the school boundaries and opening Hayden Lake as a kindergarten center.
At the time, the district business manager expressed concerns over the costs of such a program. Currently, the kindergarten center will cost the district between $150,000 and $200,000, Pratt said.Officials took a look at the success of the Frederick Post kindergarten center operated by Post Falls School District, which opened in the fall of 1995.
“We opened basically to relieve overcrowding in our elementary school, but also with the idea with all our kindergarten students together we can have some consistent curriculum,” said Barney Brewton, director of elementary programs. “And that certainly has proven to be the case.”
The model has also been a success in the Central Valley School District, which opened a kindergarten center in the fall of 2006 to free up classroom space.
At Wednesday’s meeting parents heard from maintenance officials, who said the old Hayden building recently underwent an inspection and is safe for students. The district will update the old building, built in 1936, and the north addition built in the 1960s, including painting and updating the kitchen for meals. About 12 classrooms will be used for regular instruction.
The other rooms will house Kindergarten Plus, a before- and after-school program, and a pre-kindergarten day care for younger children. The school also will have a computer lab, special services including special education, literacy, counseling as needed, and other programs offered at neighborhood schools.
The district also will bus kindergarten students between their neighborhood school and the center.
Students in the morning kindergarten classes will have the option of riding the bus to their home or day care in the afternoon, as long as the state continues to pay for it, Bauman said.