Building a Progressive School in a Small Town

I was recently lucky to be a part of a North Iowa Bloggers hard hat tour of the new Charles City, Iowa Middle School. Thanks to Charles City Schools for your hospitality. As always, all opinions are 100% my own!

I have written a couple times about how it was for me to visit my old hometown. I have written how it felt to see some things that were the same and how some were changed. None have changed more than what will be the new Charles City Middle School. I grew up in this town and was one of many who went to school in the building that will soon be retired.  When I went it was called the Junior High. We thought we were lucky when we got a new cafeteria and a pool. It pales in comparison to what is being built for some very lucky students now!

When I learned that the North Iowa Bloggers had been invited to Charles City for a hard hat tour of the new school that is nearing completion, I jumped on it!  I had to see how things compared. During our visit we were guests of two wonderful establishments in town, Aromas and Cedar River Pizza, but you will have to return another day to hear about those. They were such great parts of our visit, that I don’t want to shortchange them as I write about the school-they deserve their own post!

The current middle school has been used for many  decades. When the time came for updating or constructing a new one, views were strongly divided. Many did not want to let go of the old school. Fast forward and Charles City’s new middle school is scheduled to open in August. I don’t live there anymore and I can tell you, after this visit, I am beyond excited for the lucky students who will be attending this progressive school.  A school of this kind is unheard of for this size of town and for many larger. I think I can safely say, there isn’t one around like it!

As a side note, we walked through the high school on our way there. It had been the first time I had done that in 40 years! The library was no longer in that inner circle but the art rooms remained in the same spot in the school. It was a very surreal experience to walk through that past/present.

Then we walked into the future! I could fill the rest of this blog with WOW! WOW! WOW! and that would pretty much cover my reactions to it all.

From these pictures, you can see how large windows will let in natural light. There will be seating along some of them so that the students can grab their lunch and sit and relax. One thing that this doesn’t show is that there will be a fitness walk/track. Which will be a black stripe that you can follow that will go on both floors. Eight times around will equal a mile and there will be built in fitness stops.

The different colors are picked by middle school students and represent different learning areas. One floor will house the fifth and sixth graders and one will house the seventh and eight. There will be four classrooms that open to a common area and they will have walls that move so the teacher can choose to have their rooms open or closed. They also will be able to teach in any of the rooms according to their needs. Each area has a wet station-because as we were told, teaching should be a hands on experience! This school will be a project-based school. Imagine your child being able to be taught to their interests. Imagine how excited they will be to go to school!

One of my favorite parts was when we visited the special education area. I was pleased to see how small it was. Why? It meant inclusion was practiced here! They have an area for a student if they need it to calm down/redirect. But I wanted to applaud when Dr. Cox, the superintendent, told us that “Special education is a service, not a destination.”!!!  Their students are included with their peers, as they should be. He talked about how behaviors improve when this is done. It took me back to many many years ago when I insisted on inclusion for my son and stressed this for one of the reasons why it was important.

In the pictures you might be curious as to what the structure is with the platform and stairs. When the middle school students were asked something they might want in their school, they answered a treehouse! When done, it will resemble one much more and have seating for them to relax in. It will also be able to be accessed from their competition size gym. This gym will be used by the middle school and the high school both with many events being held in it. Natural light again, will be streaming in the gym by windows and nine skylights.

There is an outside balcony being built that will be used by the school and hopefully by the community also. What a great view from up there, outside, on the second floor!

To say I was impressed by what I saw, would be an understatement! I plan on returning for a visit when the school district holds an open house. I am excited to see the completed school!

You can visit the Charles City Community Schools website to keep updated. Here is an animated tour you can take now and see the vision of this school.

Hard Hat Area-3D walkthrough

Keep an eye out in the fall for my follow-up visit with new pictures from the school! I hope you are excited to see it as I am!

You can follow the Charles City Community School District on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

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