The Glenwood Community School District opened its new high school on Aug. 27. Lost in the glare of the spotlight on the $22 million, state-of-the art building is Glenwood’s other new school.
Classes began Aug. 26 at the new Glenwood Middle School, formerly Glenwood’s high school, just across the Keg Creek. The new middle school is a “big improvement” over the middle school’s former home in the Meyer Building on the Glenwood Resource Center campus, said first-year GMS Principal Heidi Stanley.
Stanley can’t point to one area of the school that most excites the students or staff, but the gymnasium, science classrooms and media center have all gotten rave reviews. The new middle school gymnasium is roughly twice the size of the old gym and the new media center no longer has to contend with the thuds of P.E. class with a gymnasium upstairs.
“They’re even excited about the hallways,” said Stanley of her students. “If you were ever in the old hallways and saw how crowded the hallways were you can really see the difference. Now they have so much room.
“They are very excited. In most years we have one group of kids that’s new to the building, this year we have three groups that are new to the building.”
The school also has roughly twice as many lockers, so instead of all three grades forced to share already cramped locker space, every seventh and eight grade student now has a locker to themselves. The sixth graders will continue to share.
Glenwood Superintendent Dr. Stan Sibley said the opening of the new middle school nearly completes an overhaul to the district’s aging facilities. He calls the new building one of the top middle schools in the state.
“We’ve gone from worst to first in regard to our top-level learning centers,” said Sibley of the opening of the new high school and middle school.
While Stanley agrees the middle school had been somewhat overlooked, she’s okay with it for a couple of reasons: she and her students know how good their new home is, and any school would pale in comparison to the new high school.
“We are actually okay with it,” she said. “It’s a big, big step. And the high school is a big part of that. But what we want people to understand with the high school, and this middle school, we have excellent facilities for pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.
“A lot of people, I think, are focusing on the high school and not stopping to see what a difference it’s made for the middle school also. When you look at our facilities across the board, we have very good facilities. Maybe when the high school gets open and we get rid of those things, people will stop to look at how this has improved the district.”
Improvements are still planned for the middle school as part of the district’s facilities upgrade. Most of those improvements were scheduled for this past summer but had to be put off with the high school construction delays. Most will be completed for the next school year. Among the planned improvements is a more security conscious entrance to the school office with glass walls and remotely locking doors and yet to be determined internal classroom changes, as well as cosmetic and maintenance improvements.
“There are just some things to make this a better facility to meet the needs of middle school kids. This building was built for high school kids. So there are just things we want to change,” said Stanley.
Stanley said she and the district staff “brainstormed” leading up to the start of school as to how best control the flow of traffic to and from the school. The solution was cutting off traffic to the school’s traditional drop off drive and having parents drop off and pick up students in the southwest lot. That one change, Stanley said, has allowed for smoother traffic flow and less congestion with bus traffic getting to the north lot.
“It is different,” said Stanley, who with about 10 other teachers helped to direct traffic the first week of school. “The parents with high schoolers were used to just driving up the circle and dropping off,” she said. “We’re just trying to eliminate that back flow that happens there. We’ve pretty much changed the entire flow of traffic. It actually seems to be going pretty well.”
Just a few weeks into the new school year, the new traffic flow isn’t the only confusion. With three grades of students in a new building, most are stumbling around and bumping into each other trying to figure out where they’re supposed to be.
“Until they get that routine down that will happen,” she said. Routines, class schedules, and simply finding a classroom in a bigger building comes slow, she added. “It’s taking us a little while to get into the routines. The first day was a little confusing but the second day was better.”
Students have a three minute passing period to move between classes. Stanley said the school resisted extending that time for the first few days of school, but most teachers, she said, have been pretty understanding if an overwhelmed sixth grader couldn’t find his or her English class in the time allotted.
“We’re very flexible. And we will be this first couple of weeks. We’re lenient. We have to remember everybody is lost. All 483 of them will be lost at some point these first few weeks,” she said.
So have any teachers gotten lost?
“I’m sure it’s happened. They haven’t shared it with me but I bet it’s happened,” she said.
The middle school’s transition may have been under the radar but Stanley said she’s had no reports of confused students or parents arriving at the former middle school wondering where everybody was.
“If they have, we haven’t heard about it,” she said. “Hopefully they know we’re here.”