Eagle Grove Community Schools: Preparing for Prestage, anticipating adding on

Six million dollars in renovated space

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Addy Jeske, 10, a fifth-grade student at Robert Blue Middle School, right, holds up the work of classmate Dylan Lenning, 11, also a fifth-grader. The two were working on unscrambling sentences in a Language Arts class.

EAGLE GROVE — Six million dollars worth of renovated space at Eagle Grove’s elementary and middle school is one development Superintendent Jess Toliver hopes will help accommodate a likely increase in student population for next school year and beyond.

“From a school district standpoint the biggest thing we are doing is preparing for growth,” Toliver said. “With the Prestage plant coming sometime next year we are doing everything we can to prepare for additional students and how we can serve them.”

Part of the renovations are underway on the north end of Eagle Grove Elementary School.

Ten classrooms, including two special education classrooms, are being added there.

The addition will occupy about 13,000 square feet.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Katherine Fregoso, 5, a kindergartner at Eagle Grove Elementary School, sprinkles some snow on a classmate during recess at the school recently.

About 350 students, kindergarten through fourth grade, attend elementary school in Eagle Grove.

“This will allow us to go to four sections in each grade, where we currently only have room for three sections,” Toliver said.

The lunchroom and locker rooms in the Robert Blue Middle School, which is connected to the elementary school, will also be remodeled.

“With additional students, we needed to do something with our food service area,” Toliver said. “We are redoing that area to accommodate more kids during the lunch hour.”

The elementary and middle school share the same lunch room.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Eagle Grove elementary students play during recess recently. Shown behind is a structure being added on to the north side of the school as the district prepares for potential growth.

Students are served lunch from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The lunchroom will expand to 2,475 square feet.

The district received funding help from the county for the projects.

Wright County supervisors voted in favor of providing $1.5 million in TIFF tax dollars to the school.

“We have borrowed against our statewide penny and working with the county, we tiffed a million worth of future property tax out by the Prestage plant.”

Toliver said the elementary school was built about 10 years ago to accommodate between 60 and 75 students per grade.

“Currently we run about 65 to 70 kids per grade at the elementary,” he said. “With any significant growth, it’s going to throw all of those classes into a fourth section.”

He added, “We currently are at capacity and have been for several years. That’s the way you want it, but with anticipated growth, we will stretch that beyond what we can.”

Toliver said the high school, which will turn 100 years old next year, is better equipped to handle growth.

Toliver said although a lot of people have said the district needs a new high school, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

In terms of performance, the latest report card from the state grades Eagle Grove’s elementary school as commendable, middle school as needs improvement, and high school as acceptable.

The ratings are formulated based on up to eight different categories: proficiency, college and career ready growth, annual expected growth, closing achievement gap, college and career readiness, graduation rate, attendance and staff retention.

Statewide assessments are also a factor.

Each school receives one of the following ratings: exceptional, high-performing, commendable, acceptable, needs improvement, and priority.

Toliver said one of the challenges with statewide testing is grading students who are still learning the English language.

About 33 percent of students at the elementary school are Hispanic. About 24 percent of the middle school population is Hispanic.

“Any standardized test is a reading test, so until you have mastered English, it’s not going to reflect your abilities,” he said.

About 70 percent of students at both the elementary school and middle school are on free and reduced lunch.

Toliver said as the district experiences growth, it’s not out of the question for scores to decrease.

“You might see your test scores actually go down,” he said. “It just means you are getting a more diverse student population that may not test as well.”

“What needs to be looked at is if your kid has no barriers, are they testing as well as every other kid in the state, and the answer is yes,” he added.

According to Toliver, the district employs two full-time ELL teachers and one part-time.

He said the district is looking at being able to add employees in all areas.

“When you think of student population, you immediately think of classroom teachers, but we have to be able to expand food service, transportation, special ed services, ELL services, nursing, and custodial,” he said.

He added, “Our main goal moving forward is to have the physical structures, the staff, and the resources ready for a diverse student population that will be arriving within the next 12 months.”