by Mike Knaak
Thanks to a donor who has pledged up to $100,000 in matching funds, the Sartell-St. Stephen Education Foundation launched a campaign to fund cutting-edge equipment and materials for Riverview Intermediate School.
The effort is the group’s largest fundraising campaign and the first to target specific programs that will serve third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in the district’s remodeled intermediate school when it opens next fall. The donor is longtime Sartell resident, foundation supporter and former City Council member Pat Lynch, Granite Logistics.
A team of administrators and teachers studied high-performing and newly designed schools and suggested three areas where the foundation’s money could support programs beyond what was in the district budget, according to foundation board member Amy Trombley.
The money will support a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) lab in what is now the current shop space.
The swimming pool will be filled in and the space converted for learning that includes lots of physical activities.
Two classrooms will be converted to create a larger multi-media library.
The plan, Trombley said, is to “create key opportunities and experiences that parents look for for their children at a critical age.”
When school opens next fall, third- through fifth-graders will move to Riverview Intermediate, the renamed and remodeled middle school, while middle school students will attend the old high school.
While the district funds the building remodeling, the foundation’s grants will equip the spaces and provide teacher-development training about how to use the spaces and materials.
The converted shop space will feature career exploration tools. Equipment could include engineering kits, drones, coding, robots and agriculture projects. The “Art” element recognizes there’s a creative design component to science and technology.
Flexible activity space
Students will be able to use the activity space for lessons that “connect the mind and the body,” Trombley said. Equipment could include a climbing wall and yoga mats as well as more space to move. Trombley offered an example of timing students as they run and then teaching them how to calculate median times.
The goal, according to the foundation, is to engage 8- to 11-year-olds’ minds and bodies in a safe, positive and fun environment. Those activities propel students “to learn in new ways, promote healthy lifestyles and engage in teamwork and community building.”
Since it opened 50 years ago, the building’s library continued to shrink as the space was converted to classrooms. With the remodeling, that lost space will be reclaimed.
“The media center will be moving to the heart of the school,” said Zachery Dingmann, current middle school assistant principal who will be Riverview’s principal. In addition to books, the multi-media library will have space for student collaboration and producing videos, Dingmann said.
The foundation’s materials describe the space as having “flexible seating, media displays, markerspace and age-appropriate shelving for books” that will again make the media center the heart of the school.
Research for the new spaces began two years ago as Dingmann and a rotating team of 15 teachers visited nine schools.
Dingmann described a visit to Five Hawks Elementary School in Prior Lake as “eye opening.” The school incorporates an environmental focus and hands-on learning in everything from the classroom and cafeteria to the school’s clubs and activities.
After the visits, the team compiled suggestions that offered the best opportunities while “staying true to who we are,” Dingmann said. The staff then worked with the foundation to come up with a plan tied to the district’s values of communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.
The new opportunities planned for next fall extend outside the school as well, Dingmann said.
Working with the Department of Natural Resources, students will study the 60 acres of woods and prairie to the west of the school.
As the students and staff become comfortable with their “new” school, Dingmann looks forward to community partnerships and service-learning communities to give back to the community.
How to donate
To turn the plans for the new spaces into reality, the foundation is looking for contributions. To donate, go to www.ssef.net and click on the Riverview Campaign tab at the top of the page.
Dingmann said the district would not be able to offer these cutting-edge opportunities without the foundation.
“We are grateful for the Sartell-St. Stephen Foundation. We wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Dingmann said.
“This is what keeps us a premier district in the state,” Trombley said. “We have a supportive community, caring staff and experiences we can provide our kids.”
Sartell-St. Stephen Education Foundation wants to equip Riverview Intermediate School with equipment for hands-on technology learning such as robotics.