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North Trail Elementary kindergarten students come together

Interim principal Vicky Lippert cuts a ribbon to celebrate the addition of two new kindergarten classrooms at North Trail Elementary School in Farmington. (Submitted Photo)

As if teaching kindergarten weren't challenging enough, imagine teaching kindergarten in a building where some of your teammates are not even on the same floor.

This was the case at North Trail Elementary, and it's just one reason teachers were thrilled to move into their brand new classrooms, all housed in the same hallway, Nov. 1.

The addition of two new kindergarten classrooms, bringing the total to six at North Trail, came as the result of a 2015 $43 million building bond that allowed for secured entrances and additional kindergarten classrooms at every elementary school in ISD 192.

The classrooms became necessary when Minnesota lawmakers approved $134 million in funding to pay for full-day kindergarten across the state, starting the 2014-15 school year.

Previously, North Trail had housed two early childhood classrooms and four kindergarten classrooms, some of which were able to accommodate both a morning and afternoon class. When the school eliminated half-day kindergarten, space became an issue. Eighty-nine full-time kindergarteners are enrolled at North Trail this year.

Construction on the addition began the week after school got out last summer and was completed by Oct. 28. Students moved into their new classrooms Nov. 2, giving teachers exactly one day to move out of their old classrooms and into the new ones.

In order to accommodate a move in the middle of the school year, administrators adjusted the calendar, asking kindergarteners to stay home the day after Halloween. They then hired a professional moving company and asked teachers and staff to pitch in wherever they could.

Interim principal Vicky Lippert said the move went off without a hitch.

"It was wonderful and unbelievable," she said. "We owe a ton of gratitude to the parents. Teachers from other grade levels were coming in during their prep time asking what they could do to help. It was a schoolwide effort and it was so smooth."

Lippert said the new kindergarten classrooms were all set up and ready to go when kindergarteners walked in the door Wednesday morning.

"The kids were so excited to see each other in one area," she said.

Kindergarten teacher Kristin Andree said the shared gathering space between the classrooms has increased students' learning time, since they no longer have to travel from different areas of the building to meet.

"It's so nice to be a community of learners. For the kids, it's awesome," she said.

Lippert said the new space has given the kindergarten teachers and students a real sense of community, allowing for more collaboration.

"There is never a time you go down there when you don't see students out in that pod area working with educational assistants, teachers, and adult and student volunteers. Everyone is very excited," she said.

The new kindergarten additions have been completed at North Trail Elementary, Riverview Elementary, and Meadowview Elementary. Construction will begin at Akin Road Elementary and Farmington Elementary School this summer.