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Drop in enrollment created surplus space

Twain Sullivan has greater space capacity
Katrina Hunter, one of the infant/toddler educators at the new Beanstalk space in Silverthorne Elementary uses a steam cleaner which is one of the items purchased through a pandemic relief grant from the District of Houston. (Beanstalk Early Learning Centre file photo/Houston Today)

Faced with a drop in enrollment that created surplus space at its Houston schools, School District 54 has been methodically finding ways to use that space efficiently to improve the learning experiences of its students and to provide a service to the greater community.

The latest school at which changes are being planned is Twain Sullivan, says School District 54 secretary-treasurer Dave Margerm.

Renovations being planned include multipurpose use areas, upgrades to handle the requirements of modern technology and a learning commons which takes educational opportunities outside of a traditional classroom setting into an area where there is more space for collaboration and group participation.

“This will help improve capacity statistics when complete,” said Margerm of the balance between enrollment and overall size of a school facility.

Twain Sullivan’s Grade 4 to 7 students already experience more efficient use of school space by using next-door Houston Secondary School’s trades shops and gym for expanded intermediate programming, he added.

As for Houston Secondary itself, two large shop spaces have been renovated for trades programming for its students as well as students from trades training when offered in Houston by Coast Mountain College.

“The District has also increased spaced and modernized the foods support space to provide expanded foods programs for both Twain Sullivan and Houston Secondary,” said Margerm. “Accounting for the trades space, this places Houston [Secondary] at a 81 per cent capacity.”

The largest transformation of extra space has taken place at the Silverthorne primary school where one wing, through the financial participation of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, has been renovated for childcare programming.

Use of that newly-renovated space for child care began the fall of 2021 under the auspices of the Beanstalk Childcare Centre.

The school district works with additional local agencies such as Houston Link to Learning and Thomas Robinson Consulting for a broad range of programs in that space for pre-kindergarten, before school and after school care.

Bev Forster, the school district’s principal for early learning support describes the space and programming as an exciting time.

“As we move forward, the change from the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Education and Childcare will allow the district to better engage in the early learning community and help bridge the gap between the early learning community and the school system,” she said.

As for the Silverthorne building, the addition of childcare space has placed it at 92 per cent capacity.

All of the above has taken place against the backdrop of making Silverthorne a K-3 school and Twain Sullivan a 4-7 school.

Margerm says the move has met both educational and space utilization goals.

“This has allowed the District to reallocate student populations to improve capacity efficiency,” he said.

“Twain has greater space capacity with the addition of childcare capacity at Silverthorne, and now has a greater intermediate population to support the greater space.”

About the Author: Rod Link

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