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New Southeast Webster Grand gym is a big hit

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen Elijah Weier, a student at Southeast Webster-Grand Elementary School in Dayton, tries out his jumping form in the new addition to the school.

DAYTON — The new addition to the Southeast Webster Grand Elementary School in Dayton is a big hit.

The school’s new gym opened this year.

“The kids absolutely love it,” Superintendent Brian Johnson said. “Now we’re working out the kinks and the details with the new gym.”

Before, students had to get bundled up and walk across the street to the community center gym. The new facility saves class time, as well as being a lot larger.

And there are more basketball hoops too.

“The hoops can lower down to 8 foot as opposed to 10,” Johnson said. “That makes it more manageable for the young ones to learn proper fundamentals.”

Jensen Construction broke ground on the $3.5 million addition Nov. 30, 2015. In November 2016, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the grand opening of the new space.

Johnson is new to the school system this year and has enjoyed getting to know Southeast Webster Grand and Prairie Valley, as well as the joint Southeast Valley district.

“It’s been great. The staff of all four buildings, the school board, the parents, the communities have been welcoming,” said Johnson. “At this point, I couldn’t be happier.”

Before working here, Johnson was superintendent at Schleswig Community School District for eight years. He was kindergarten through eighth-grade principal before that, being named building administrator before becoming superintendent.

SWG and PV elementaries are still separate. Students then come together to the Southeast Valley Middle School in Burnside, and the SV High School in Gowrie.

That separation will continue in the near future, Johnson said.

The two school boards are working more and more closely together, holding several joint board meetings this past school year.

“The goal is to have four by the end of the year,” he said. “And next year to have more, if not all.

“We’re starting to get joint policies together. Our goal would be to have a joint master contract, staff handbook, etc.”

Also in the works are security upgrades for all four buildings.

“Door access points, camera upgrades, locations, things of that nature,” Johnson said.

The Prairie Valley board has voted to renovate the south wing addition, which will have to do with public access points and make it easier to know who is in the building at all times.

“When visitors come into our building, the first thing they will see is the offices,” Johnson said.

Over the summer the two elementaries got to work on a pilot program for the University of Iowa, testing out Lexia, an intensive computerized reading program.

SWG and Prairie Valley together had to come up with exactly 15 students, said SWG Principal Dan Grandfield. In the end, 12 students were there for enough of the program to provide results.

“They showed growth. That was the point of the program,” Grandfield said. “It was a good look at the program itself because now we are using it in the third-grade classroom.”

All the third-graders get the program, as well as some of the second-graders who may be struggling. Johnson said he hopes to see some real results when the FAST — the state-required universal screener — comes around this spring.

With Chromebooks and iPads in the elementaries, Chromebooks in middle school and a one-to-one initiative in high school, Southeast Valley is looking for more ways to include technology.

“Like every other school in the state, our goal in implementing technology is to better engage students,” Johnson said. “We’re looking into virtual reality, green screens, those types of things that help kids create, as opposed to ‘sit and get.'”

And like every other school, the challenge is to do so with limited funds.

One other goal for the school is to do more for kids heading to college.

“Many of our goals right now in our high school are to be able to provide concurrent enrollment classes, so they can get high school and college credit,” Johnson said. “Many of our students have the opportunity to graduate high school with multiple college courses, so that they can save money on tuition when they go to college.”