Pocahontas Area: New classrooms, greenhouse improvements

Making room for better education

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Superintendent Joe Kramer, of the Pocahontas Area Community School District, shows off the district’s new elementary Makerspace. He said the room, located in the district’s central administration building, is used throughout the day by students.

By the end of the month, middle schoolers in the Pocahontas Area Community School District hope to start taking classes in the new addition to the high school/middle school building.

The project, which is expected to be completed in late February or early March, will add five new classrooms to the Pocahontas Area High School and Middle School building; four of them are regular classrooms while the fifth will be a special education classroom.

Superintendent Joe Kramer said plans for the project were approved about a year ago.

“We were talking about some additional space options,” he said. “The possibility of classrooms and a gymnasium.”

The original plan was to build the addition on the northwest side of the building.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Superintendent Joe Kramer, of the Pocahontas Area Community School District, shows off the The Pocahontas Area Community School is in the process of adding a middle school wing to its building. Superintendent Joe Kramer said the wing will house four educational classrooms and one special education classroom.

After discussions with the school board, Kramer said it was decided to build the five new classrooms on the southeast side of the building.

“This was done, in part, because of the additional students coming over from Laurens,” Kramer said. “This kind of takes away a bit of the crowding we’ve had with the influx of new students.”

This year, 41 high school students from the Laurens-Marathon Community School District began attending classes in the Pocahontas Area Community School District due to a whole-grade sharing agreement between the districts.

Previously, the agreement was only partial-day, and high schoolers from Laurens-Marathon attended two to four hours of classes at Pocahontas.

Kramer said the new addition is 7,000 square feet of space and will essentially be the school’s new middle school wing.

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari Superintendent Joe Kramer, of the Pocahontas Area Community School District, shows off the Phil Trimble, technology director at the Pocahontas Area Community School, shows where a TV will be installed inside a new middle school addition to the building. The addition is expected to be completed in late February or early March.

“There’s also a little bit of their own area within the middle school/high school building,” he said.

Kolacia Construction, of Fort Dodge, is the general contractor, and the base bid is $1.348 million, plus architectual fees.

The addition will include 21st century technology, including TVs that can rotate 180 degrees so every student in the classroom can see them.

That’s not the only construction project that’s happened in the Pocahontas Area district this past year.

A room within the school’s central administration building was remodeled to become the elementary Makerspace area.

Kramer said the room is open to elementary school students all day and develops their skills in math, engineering, science and technology.

In addition, two high school teachers, agriculture instructor Justin Waller and science teacher Sue Jarvis, recently received a $10,000 Monsanto grant to help remodel the school’s greenhouse.

“The project was written to update the greenhouse that we currently have,” Kramer said. “So they completely reskinned it and they’re going to be updating the equipment on the inside as well.”

That money will be used to help expand food production, which will be used in the school cafeteria.

“The high school, for the last two years, has been, through their May term classes, running a program with the school garden,” Kramer said. “And the produce from that has been utilized by the school lunch program. The intent with the greenhouse would be to maybe allow all-year work.”

It’s expected that the greenhouse project will be completed by the end of the school year in May.

This past year, the Pocahontas Area Community School District also joined the Rabiner constorium, which will allow Pocahontas to send its students to the Rabiner Treatment Center, located just west of Fort Dodge.

Kramer is the vice president for the constorium group.

It will benefit not only Pocahontas, but the 18 other school districts that are participating as well.

“There’s just not a lot of options for behavior students who need a different setting, whether it’s short-term or long-term,” Kramer said. “So 19 schools all came together basically to help fund and operate the behavior student program.”