Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nottingham Elementary fights age

Surging enrollment takes toll

September 27, 2007

(Editor's note: Starting this week, The Eudora News will run a series of stories examining different aspects of Eudora USD 491's proposed $45 million bond issue.)

Each year when it comes to time allocate classroom space for elementary programs, the reality hits Nottingham Elementary School Principal Jim Lauer.

Second-graders read a book Monday with teacher Margaret Peterson.
Peterson's classroom is one of many that was once part of a larger
open space.

Second-graders read a book Monday with teacher Margaret Peterson. Peterson's classroom is one of many that was once part of a larger open space.

"Space is still our biggest issue by far," Lauer said.

The issue persists even as Nottingham Elementary uses modular units, partitions out formerly open space for classrooms and co-opts the lunchroom for math classes.

Nottingham Elementary was christened in 1975 when an addition was added to a 10-year-old eight-classroom school. The new addition provided space for 300 students, Lauer said.

According to district numbers released last Thursday, 390 students are enrolled at Nottingham for the 2007-08 school year. The school also has 78 employees.

The increased enrollment creates traffic snarls near the school on Elm Street and at the intersection of Church and 14th streets.

"It's a fright for a number of reasons," Lauer said.

Early in the discussion that led to November's bond referendum, district officials decided it would be more responsible to build a new school rather than to renovate Nottingham.

That's why the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education included a first- through fifth-grade attendance center in its $45 million bond referendum that voters will consider Nov. 6.

The new school would be built on land the district purchased near 10th and Peach streets. That purchase is contingent on the passage of the bond.

The new elementary school also would give the district the opportunity to convert Eudora West Elementary School into a preschool and kindergarten facility.

In the meantime, Lauer is working to find needed space at Nottingham and fix problems as they arise. Last week, the staff had to react quickly to cover an electronic display board with plastic when the roof leaked during a rainstorm.

In addition to space problems, the school has major sewer issues, Lauer said.

The district had to cap off a stall in one of the restrooms, because of structural problems with piping. It would require "a lot of destruction," to fix it, Lauer said.

The use of modular classroom units creates other problems, the principal said. All first-grade classrooms are in modular units that accommodate 121 students.

Instruction time is lost as the students travel from the units to the main building and back, Lauer said. It's more of an issue in the winter or bad weather, he said.

The modular classrooms are the chief concern of Stacey Watts, whose son T.J. is a first-grader at the school.

"The teachers are adapting well, but there's not enough space for storage," she said.

Watts said she supported the bond issue.

"We've outgrown our facilities," she said.

District officials are making preparations should the bond fail. If that should happen, the key would be exercising patience when choosing the next step, Eudora Superintendent Marty Kobza said.

"It can't be a rash decision; it can't be rushed," Kobza said. "It has to be methodical."

Should the bond fail, the district would reconvene a citizen advisory group to find out why, Kobza predicted.

Failure also would mean more temporary solutions, including more modular units, Kobza said.

For more information about the bond issue, call the district offices at 542-4910 or visit

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