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Top 10: New year brings new Ellsworth school

Ellsworth Community School District Superintendent Barry Cain led Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce members through the Ellsworth Elementary School building Monday, Aug. 21, a work in progress set to be occupied in January 2018. Photo courtesy of Kim Beebe

Editor's note: This story is part of a series recapping the top stories of 2017. Read the other top stories here

As children from Prairie View and Hillcrest Elementary schools headed home for the holidays this year, they knew the new year would be bringing changes.

Prairie View and Hillcrest Elementary schools, as well as Lindgren Early Learning Center, are combining at the new $31.9 million, 112,973 square foot Ellsworth Elementary, located next to Hillcrest; students will begin their classes at the new building on Jan. 5. Ellsworth School Superintendent Barry Cain said students were able to get a "sneak peak" of the school on Dec. 20 in order to find their lockers, put items in their classrooms and see the building. While there will still be questions as students move in, the hope is that this preview for the students will help alleviate some of that first day stress.

"But hopefully it's just a real smooth transition after the break," Cain said. "We have a beautiful building that hopefully people will enjoy."

Cain said the school district has been working hard to make things go as smoothly as possible for everyone. They have been working with the teachers since last spring to get their classroom items moved to the new school.

"We were telling teachers if there was anything that they said they knew they weren't going to use until after Christmas break next year to go ahead and start boxing it up," Cain said.

These boxes were stored at the high school since last spring and last week community volunteers started moving the boxes to the appropriate classrooms. Teachers had Dec. 21 and 22 to work in their rooms, unpack items and organize their classrooms.

The Ellsworth Elementary School's new location made it necessary, Cain said, for the school district to redo bus routes. He said it was important while they were doing this to communicate with parents what was going on; district employees have been available all along to answer questions people in the community had.

"I think one of the biggest things we had to do was really demonstrate to the public how we were going to do our transportation," Cain said, "how were the bus routes going to operate, and that we can get their kids here with good bus routes and to not have long, long bus rides."

In the beginning of November, Cain said bus route schedules were sent to all parents that had each child's pick-up and drop-off time within 15 minutes. He said parents were encouraged to provide their feedback, concerns and questions so these could be addressed before school starts.

Overall, Cain is confident the new school is ready and will be a good change for students and teachers.

"In trying to do a lot of things that we do with our education philosophy, building one school was a better way to deliver education to kids," Cain said. "And then the whole collaboration aspect. The whole model is meant for kids and staff to collaborate, and building a building with that model rather than trying to retrofit buildings is just a lot better way to go about doing things."

Parent-teacher conferences will be at the Ellsworth Elementary School on Jan. 4 and students will start classes at the new building Jan. 5. The Elementary School will have an open house Jan. 22 from 5-7:30 p.m. and the public is invited to come for tours, refreshments, videos and information about the building.

"We're really hoping to get just large-group members of our community to come in and see the school that night," Cain said. "And at 7:30 we're going to have a short ceremony as a ribbon cutting, and we'll open the new school that way."

Katie Davidson contributed to story