Today is the first day of school for the Minot Public Schools and children from flooded schools will be returning to classrooms that look very different from the ones they left in May.
"They look small and tight," said Dalton Harvey, a fifth-grader at Lincoln Elementary, after he got his first look Thursday at the tiny Sunday school classroom at First Presbyterian Church where he will be spending the school year. Lincoln held an open house Sept. 1 to give students and parents a chance to see their temporary classrooms.
"Lincoln is definitely better," said Dalton's classmate, fifth-grader Sydney Beck, whose home was also flooded this summer. Sydney added that the up side is that all of the students and teachers will be together again and it is the people who make it a school more than the building they are in.
Andrea Johnson/MDN - - Lincoln Elementary fifth grade teacher Sara Gillis shows off the cabinet where she has neatly organized her school supplies in her classroom in temporary quarters at First Presbyterian Church. Having small quarters this year forces her to be especially well organized, Gillis said.
Andrea Johnson/MDN - - Fifth-grader Dalton Harvey tries out his desk in his new classroom in Lincoln Elementary’s temporary quarters at First Presbyterian Church.
Andrea Johnson/MDN - - Second-grader Dakotah Harvey tries out her desk in her new classroom in Lincoln Elementary’s temporary quarters at First Presbyterian Church.
Their new classroom is about three times smaller than the classrooms at Lincoln, said fifth-grade teacher, Sara Gillis. Tables and chairs are neatly arranged, but there will be little space available for the students to walk around. Teachers like Gillis have had to make good use of their organizational skills to make the best use of the tiny space.
Jessica Pratt, whose son will be attending Lincoln Elementary at First Presbyterian, said the temporary school looks good, but worries about what the schools will do about playground equipment.
Others wondered where kids will stow their backpacks and coats in the tiny classrooms. At the open house on Sept. 1, teachers weren't quite sure of those logistics either, but said they will all do their best to make it work.
Second-grade teacher Stacey Anderson has a solution for the problem of where students will stow their books and pencils, since kids are sitting at tables and not desks. An ingenious pouch called a "seat sack" is hung over the back of each chair so that the children will just reach behind them to get a pencil or crayon.
The teachers have done their best to make the smaller classrooms a welcoming learning space for the children who will be attending classes there.
Teacher Jennifer Johnson's classroom looks like a picture perfect early elementary classroom, but nearly everything in it came from donated school supplies in the district's "flood store."
"I made it work," she said.
Johnson, who has taught for 34 years, said she wasn't able to retrieve anything from her classroom before the flood. Her home was also flooded. Johnson regrets the loss of an accumulation of three decades of teaching, such as the starfish tank that her students loved to look at in her classroom and which she often used in lessons. She also lost personal items, including a wool coat that she bought one year at the Norsk Hstfest and wore outside for recess duty. The loss of her home in Terracita Vallejo also makes it doubly hard.
Principal Pat Slotsve said the school district is grateful to have the opportunity to rent the classrooms at First Presbyterian. "They have bent over backwards for us," said Slotsve, who said he hadn't realized exactly how big the church was. About eight or nine options for temporary quarters for Lincoln were considered, including a portable classroom village on the grounds at Lincoln, but this is the one that was chosen. The district has a good working relationship with First Presbyterian minister Bob Edwards and Sunnyside Elementary principal Cindy Cook serves on the church council, said Slotsve, which may have helped smooth the way for the arrangement.
Use of space
The district has eight classrooms and a music room at First Presbyterian. One classroom will be a portable classroom located in the church parking lot. Slotsve's makeshift office is in the church library, which he will share with the school's counselor.
The building will have wireless capability and students will be using laptop computers, said Slotsve. The district has also been able to install the interactive white boards, document cameras and other technology in the temporary buildings and in the portable villages that are being used.
Whether the district's flooded schools will be able to be salvaged has not yet been determined. By one estimate the total damage could be between $40 million and $50 million.
Students from Erik Ramstad Middle School, which had water up to the roof level for a month, will be attending classes in the Minot Municipal Auditorium and in portables on the auditorium grounds. Students from Longfellow Elementary will be attending classes in portable villages on the grounds of the school. Students from the Adult Learning Center and the Minot Head Start will be attending classes in portables on the grounds of Jefferson Early Childhood Center. Students will be able to attend classes in other schools that were located in the flood zone.