(Note: This is the fifth of seven installments of what’s “New for NJSD in 2014-15.” Each Wednesday during July and August, a feature will be posted with something new to look for during the upcoming school year.)
It may be a new location and a new principal, but those are among the few changes people will see in the Neenah Joint School District’s Early Learning Center in 2014-15.
The entire teaching staff from last year returns as the Early Learning Center moves from Taft School to Washington School this fall. Washington was shut down for classes in June 2008 and was used by the District as a storage site the past six years.
“The teachers really fought hard to stay together,” said Stacie Nelson, who was hired as a part-time principal after working several years in early childhood around the state, including a stint with Milwaukee Public Schools. “They are a very passionate group and it should make for a smooth transition.”
The staff has been coming in during the summer to set up their rooms and the building has gone through numerous upgrades since the Board approved its reopening on Dec. 17. A library with a SMART board was also recently added. The move was part of a restructuring plan to keep as many students as possible close to their neighborhood schools while maintaining low class sizes. Taft was restructured to host grades K-5, necessitating the reopening of Washington.
“The biggest challenge has been economizing the space,” said Director of Facilities/Engineer Andrew Thorson, noting that the building is still being used for some overflow storage, but does so now while accommodating nearly 100 students and staff. “If we didn’t have Washington we would still need a storage locker to be able to store our furniture that gets shifted between buildings.”
A new roof and gym floor were recently completed and the parking lot is being repaved. The building will also be getting a new boiler system just before school starts to bring everything up to date with the other buildings in the District. Built in 1976, Washington is still the newest building in the District. It replaced the original high school, which sat on that spot between Franklin and Columbia Avenues for 96 years.
Washington will also be the site of the District’s Early Childhood screenings, which are held once per month, beginning on August 6. The screenings provides parents with developmental information on their child and identifies children who may need access to the programs in the Early Learning Center. Children must be between the ages of two years, nine months and five years old for the screening, which tests speech, language, concepts and motor skills.
“The Early Learning Center is exactly the same. It’s the same structure and the same staff – just in a new building,” Nelson said.