Enrollment numbers at Pleasant Valley schools are growing rapidly, but the district should have plenty of extra room to swell in the next few years, thanks to the recently completed additions at the high school and Cody Elementary.
Since the 2013-14 school year, Pleasant Valley’s enrollment has grown by nearly 15 percent, or more than 600 students.
To accommodate that growth, the district’s School Board approved the more than $20 million high school expansion in 2016. The three-story tower has 10 classrooms, and Principal Mike Zimmer said three more towers could be built in the future if the district continues to grow.
“I believe that with the tower addition … we can grow up to about 1,700 and 1,800 students before we have to start looking at new towers,” Zimmer said via phone call.
The district will host a tour of the renovated and added areas of the high school Monday. Refreshments and live music will start at 5:15 p.m., with a brief program at 5:30 p.m. before guests can begin to tour the building at 5:45 p.m.
Before the addition, teachers had been sharing classrooms. Those teachers have already moved into the new spaces.
“That helped relieve some pressure immediately,” Zimmer said.
Four of classrooms are being used for science classes, and Zimmer said the rest of the space will be allocated as needed after students register for classes in February.
“In its original inception, we talked about maybe a ninth-grade building, and maybe a senior building, but we don’t have any pure ninth grade classes or senior classes,” he said. “As kids need specific classes, they’re kind of all over. … I’ve tried to work our classes out so that teachers who are teaching similar things are near each other.”
In addition to the extra classroom space, the high school’s auxiliary gym was converted into a meeting space and a new indoor track and auxiliary gym were added to replace it. The weight room was also expanded.
“We added another $80,000 worth of equipment, weights and racks,” Zimmer said. “We are not done yet. I have room to add another few spaces into our existing space because of how we reconfigured it.”
Nearly 10 miles away, Cody Elementary Principal Laurie Brasche is waiting until spring break, at the earliest, to move teachers into any of the school’s four new classrooms.
“As of right now, we will not move anybody this year, unless somebody changes their mind by spring break,” she said via phone call.
The addition is enough to add 100 students to Cody.
“Two years ago, we had the space to add the third section of kindergarten here, just because that’s how big district numbers were,” Brasche said. “The year after that, which would have been last year, that extra section went to first grade.”
The plan is for fifth- and sixth-grade sections to move to the new section.
“One of the four new rooms is a little bit smaller, and our intermediate special education teacher will go to that room,” Brasche said. “The room that our current special education teacher is in, she needs to move out of because that will become the third section of third grade.”
When new families move to the district, Brasche said Superintendent Jim Spelhaug works to try to keep siblings in the same schools. With the new classrooms, Cody will be a likely option for new families with young kids, including a family Brasche said will be starting school after break.
“They’re in the other school’s territory, but we have an opening for the two grades the kids are in, and they wanted to keep the siblings together,” she said.
Even with the new addition, Cody is one of Pleasant Valley’s smallest elementary schools.
“The added families bring even more richness to our diversity,” Brasche said. “ … Cody is such a warm, welcoming school, and it’s our goal to make sure it remains that, even by adding 100 students. We want to keep our small, rural school, feeling the same.”
The construction allowed for the school to improve and update its playground, and the school has added aid support to accommodate the changes.
“With the addition of students comes the addition of teachers,” Brasche said. “Even this year, the teachers we have added have done nothing but enhance what is already here. That’s what I’d expect from when we add more teachers.”