Lincoln Elementary would require the least amount of money to upgrade in order to improve the elementary system at Hastings Public Schools as proposed by a local advisory committee.
In October, Superintendent Craig Kautz revealed the recommendations for the future of the elementary buildings as proposed by a Community Facilities Advisory Committee.
Under the committee’s proposal, the Hawthorne, Lincoln and Watson elementary buildings would be expanded, while Alcott and Longfellow would both be expanded and renovated.
Meanwhile, Morton Elementary would be closed with the option of turning it into a preschool hub for the district.
Under the proposal, Lincoln Elementary would receive about $1.5 million in improvements.
Seven new classrooms would be added to the north side of the building to increase the building from a 2.5-section building to a full three-section school.
The cost of the improvements is slightly higher than the $1.38 million it cost to build the school in 1979-80 at the corner of E Street and Franklin Avenue.
Of the seven new classrooms, three would be new kindergarten rooms, all measuring about 1,200 square feet, which would all be put adjacent to each other and match in size and design.
Kautz said one important aspect of the entire elementary system plan is to create those like spaces together for kindergartners and their teachers.
At Lincoln, that means the large kindergarten room just off the building’s main entrance would be converted into office space.
The goal, Kautz said, is to move the office next to the main entrance in each building to give staff easier access to managing people who enter and leave the building during school hours.
There are currently three sections of kindergarten, second and third grades at Lincoln Elementary.
The remaining classrooms may be transformed into a sort of lower elementary wing with first- and second-grade classes moving to that area.
Kautz said the final configuration of all classrooms would be at the discretion of the principal.
One benefit of the Lincoln Elementary building as compared to the other schools is that it already has a separate gymnasium and commons/lunch room. However, Kautz said, with space for more students being added in the building, the plan is to expand the commons area, which could be easily done if the office is relocated closer to the entrance.
Kautz said there are about 315 students who attend Lincoln Elementary; however, there are about 450 kids who live in that school’s attendance area.
Many of those students attend school at Longfellow Elementary, which is the largest school in the system.
As more families have moved from the Longfellow area and space in that area is taken up by businesses, it has become an important school for students from other areas.
“It works because if all the kids who were in the Lincoln attendance area would say they’re going to Lincoln, this (new) school would serve it, but the present school would not,” Kautz said of the Lincoln building.
Kautz wishes that more could be done to help update and reconfigure other space in the Lincoln building; however, he said it comes down to dollars and cents.
When Lincoln Elementary was built, it was designed as an open concept with no walls between classrooms. Instead there were 12 flexible learning spaces defined by movable panels. Those areas were designed around a large media center and a reading loft.
Not long after the building was completed, permanent walls were installed to create separate classrooms. The problem was that with the design of the building, each classroom could not be given equal space.
Kautz said he wishes there was a way he could have the money to make more significant renovations at Lincoln to address those issues.
“I wish I could go in and do more with Lincoln to get the classroom sizes more equal,” he said. “But, again, you have to balance cost effectiveness, needs, etc.”