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District reconfiguring into four K-4 schools, one 5-6 building

Arrangement somewhat similar to longtime K-6 setup

Several Newton Community School District Board of Education votes have the district on track to undergo a major elementary school reconfiguration this year.

Driven largely to reduce class sizes in the lower grades and the desire to use all of its oldest, most beloved buildings as regular schools, the district will have four K-4 schools and one grades 5-6 school, beginning with the 2016-17 school year. It will be the biggest chance in six years since the board voted to close Emerson Hough as an elementary school, when it went to two K-3 and two grades 4-6 schools.

The move will bring back the concept of “neighborhood schools,” to an extent, as many students will be able to walk to a nearby school for five or more years of their education. However, it will be a great adjustment on many other levels.

Emerson Hough, which had been a regular school for 84 years before it closed in 2010, eventually became home to the district’s administration offices in recent years, along with the Basics & Beyond classrooms, NCSD grades 7-12 Disciplinary Alternative Program, preschool program and Drake University Head Start Program.

All of those components are vacating Emerson Hough, which will join Aurora Heights, Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jefferson schools in being configured in the months ahead to house K-4 students.

The Berg Complex will house a grades 5-6 “intermediate” school and the unchanged grades 7-8 Berg Middle School.

The district purchased the former Hy-Vee West building, and its remodeling to become the NCSD administration building is in its final stages. This building will house Basics & Beyond, administration offices, professional development dividable conference space and DAP.

The preschool program and Drake University Head Start Program will move to Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

Dozens of teachers will be at new campuses and part of different teams. The teams themselves will be configured differently, and some programs will move to new campuses.

Administration positions, aided by new funding from the Teacher Leadership and Compensation Grant, will look somewhat different. For example, the Berg Complex will have one principal, assisted by both a 5-6 assistant principal and one for the middle-school side.

Maintenance supervisor Jack Suttek put together a timeline for the minor construction, installations and removals and moving that will need to take place. Painting while buildings are empty will be one priority, Suttek said.

“I’ve met with principals, custodians and others about what areas need to be hit the hardest,” Suttek said. “Some places will just need touch-ups or accents. Others need a whole fresh coat.”

Staff members will be responsible for boxing up all supplies in their rooms close to the end of the school year. Suttek’s designees will help them palletize and shrink-wrap boxes and move those pallets to the staff member’s designated classroom.

A recently approved $830,000 renovation project of the Emerson Hough building, which hasn’t been a regular school for the past six years, will include new lockers and a new HVAC system. Berg’s “intermediate” half will require new lockers as well.

Suttek has also met with Boland Recreation of Marshalltown regarding playground equipment. The playground equipment currently at Emerson Hough belongs to the Drake University Head Start program and will follow the program .

Chris Barton of Realm, Inc. is planning on donating pallets for the moving. All the district will need to do is pick up the pallets and return them later.

Suttek also said the Newton Correctional Facility has approved his plan to use offenders housed at the facility to help with the heavy lifting of the move. There will be no cost to the district for the community-service assistance from the offenders.

Remodeling of the new administration building — known as the former Hy-Vee West building — is on schedule and should be ready for the late-spring or early summer move-in.

Recommended boundaries for the four K-4 attendance zones, after three community input forums and extensive data and work from the consulting firm RSP & Associates, should be presented to the NCSD board at Monday’s regular meeting.

The last day of the 2015-16 school year for students in Newton is scheduled for May 27. After Memorial Day weekend, a May 31 teacher-only day and June 1 professional development are planned.

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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