The new walls of Wallace Elementary

Gretchen Lagerblade, Staff Writer

As high school and middle school students are getting settled in their new schools Stahl Construction is working hard for the students of Wallace Elementary to be in theirs. The gutting of the middle school started in June as soon as the middle school moved to the old high school. “At one point it looked like floors, ceilings, and the big beams that held it up.” Director of communications Laura Sprague said. The new Wallace is expected to be ready for students in August 2018.

Wallace is combining the pre-schoolers with K-5 students. The building will be split, with the west side for the preschoolers and the east side for the K-5. “The idea is that k-1 will look different from 2-3, and 2-3 will look different from 4-5,” Suzie Pearson, Wallace Elementary Principal, said, “so that the students have something to look forward to as they move up.” 

The preschool side is designed to not be exclusive to Johnston Community School District by allowing students from neighboring cities and districts to enroll their children in the program. Approximately 400 students are expected to enroll. The school has both morning and afternoon classes available. The only thing the school does not supply is bussing for the preschoolers. “The two and three-year-old programs are fee-based programs,” Joy Duea Palmer, Director of Early Learning, said. “When children turn four years old, Johnston Schools participate in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program grant that provides free preschool for all four-year-olds who attend.”

The school has a total of four playgrounds. The preschool side has an indoor and outdoor playground. The outdoor playscape has a pebble stream, water features, mud kitchen and some slides. Connecting the two is a giant garage door that can open and close. The indoor playground has larger equipment like what would normally be seen in an outdoor playground, with grass-like turf. There will be a water feature and a climbing apparatus. “Young learners are able to learn and grow in all cognitive, social, emotional and physical areas through outdoor exposure, play, and unique learning opportunities,” Palmer said.

The other two playgrounds are located on the east side of the building. The one on the northeast is for 3-5 students. The one on the southeast side is for K-2. 

Almost the entire building is being updated for the students to have a better learning experience. One item is furniture. The hope is to find furniture that enables students to move around the classroom and not feel constricted. Soft and hard seating in addition to standing desks traditional desks and movable tables will be considered. “[Teachers and students can,] in seconds, maybe minutes, transform the room,” Pearson said.

Old Wallace could be turned into district administration offices. One idea is combining with city hall, who has outgrown its space in the corner of Merle Hay and 62nd Avenue and sell the current administrative center. “If you could go to one place and take care of so many things, that is a much more fluid process for a new family than the current experience,” Sprague said. The budget for this is $5 million. Work continues on the design of the new administration building as it is the last leg of the facilities project and not scheduled to happen until 2019.