When Williams County Public School District No. 8 opens its new school on Monday, it will already be handling 50 to 60 more students than originally planned.
Steven Guglich, the principal of Missouri Ridge School, said he expected about 300 students in grades four through eight on Monday, the first day of school for District 8. The school was originally planned as a middle school to replace Stony Creek Middle School. The district school board voted to add on an elementary wing, which is still under construction.
The cost of the school, including the new wing, is expected to be about $22.6 million. That works out to about $350 per square foot, according to district superintendent Rob Turner
In order to ease overcrowding at Garden Valley Elementary, the district is moving fourth and fifth-graders to Missouri Ridge this year.
At the end of last year, District 8’s enrollment was around 500. On Monday, Turner expects 660 or more students.
That’s an increase of more than 30 percent over a summer.
“How can you prepare for that?” Turner asked.
The enrollment surge and the decision to move two additional grades into the building has meant rearranging some classrooms.
For example, Guglich said, there are two adjoining rooms on the second floor that were planned as a special education suite, but this year will handle fifth-grade classes.
One room had been set aside for the middle school science teacher, and it opens into the school’s Science, Technology, Art, Engineering and Math — referred to as STEAM — lab.
But that room will be a fourth-grade class, and the science teacher will use the lab as his classroom.
The rearranging has made for a lot of work. On Friday, Guglich and his staff were setting up the school’s media room and ensuring all of the classrooms were set up.
“We’re trying to get everything done and ready for Monday, for sure,” he said.
And even with the space crunch that more students brings, there is a lot he’s excited about in the new school.
In addition to the new classroom space, there is an area set aside on the second floor that’s designed for small group work and collaboration. Guglich calls it the Hawks Nest, after the school’s mascot. There is modular furniture there that’s designed to be easily moved, and one wall is covered in white-board paint.
Another feature Guglich is proud of is the Family and Consumer Sciences room. There are two full kitchens, stations for sewing and a washer/dryer combo. It’s not the first time the school will offer the curriculum, but it’s a big step up from what the district had at Stony Creek.
“We offer (Family and Consumer Sciences classes) for the last four years at Stony Creek, but the teacher had one sewing machine and a microwave,” he said.
The new space is so much better that he is hoping to hold a cooking competition there in the style of the TV show “Iron Chef.” He wants to find two local chefs willing to compete and thinks the school could sell tickets for it.
Turner, too, was busy at Missouri Ridge on Friday. He spent part of the morning figuring out how the 10 buses that will serve the school need to be arranged for pick up and drop off.
Turner said he isn’t upset about all the extra work — and the extra students.
“I want to show the people what kind of education we can provide their students,” he said.