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A Conversation With … Stephanie Young

Principal, Delaware Elementary School

Posted online

Voters passed Springfield Public Schools’ $168 million bond initiative on April 2, part of which covered funding for a new $23.8 million Delaware Elementary School. What’s the construction timeline?
The school district is going to help us get moved over to the old Sherwood facility, which is at the corner of Sunshine and Scenic. Then, in the fall, construction should begin on the new building. We began working with an architect three months ago to design an ideal building for the population of students we’re serving. While our building is handicap accessible, it’s not perfect for kids with special needs and we certainly don’t have the storage and the facility space. The plan is to move into the new building in the fall of 2020.

How many students will attend the new school?
Right now, we hover around 250 kids. We are expecting that once the new facility is built, there will be some boundary shifts because all of Portland [Elementary] will go to Sunshine Elementary and then about 80 to 100 of the Sunshine students will then be pulled over to attend Delaware. The total facility will be about 65,000 square feet. Having the opportunity to design a school is kind of a once in a lifetime kind of thing. Our intention was to design a school that will meet the needs of our students now, but will continue to meet the needs 30, 40, 50 years in the future.

Buildings don’t provide education, but how will the new design better facilitate learning?
The cafeteria and the gym will be separate facilities. A scheduling challenge for us is that we have to just take two hours in the middle of our day away from our (physical education) teacher because we have to serve kids lunch every day. The gym and the music room will be connected and there’ll be a sound barrier panel. The only place we have for music right now is literally at the end of a hallway. Our teachers, in spite of the flaws of our current facility, have still managed to provide an excellent education to our students. But then the question becomes, how much more of an education, how much more effective of an education, could we provide our students if the facility didn’t hinder us?

Delaware serves as a district hub for students with special needs. What percentage of your students receive specialized education?
We ballpark it at about 35-40% of our students have some type of an individualized education plan, an IEP. A typical school would serve somewhere between 10% and 15%. We’ve got students with autism spectrum disorder all the way up to multiple disabilities. Many of those students require assistance for the restroom. We have one room in our entire building that houses a changing table, and we change about 150 diapers a day. That room also doubles as a storage closet for a lot of our school supplies. It’s just too much traffic. One of the things I’m excited about for the design is that in each neighborhood … there are going to be two classrooms that are specially designed for students with special needs. And in between these classrooms is its own restroom and changing facility.

Stephanie Young can be reached at syoung124@spsmail.org.

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