‘Founding principal’ sought to help plan new K-8 school
It’s a rare opportunity for a school principal to be able to help build a brand new school from the ground up, literally, and then run the facility from day one.
But that’s just what the Roaring Fork School District is looking for in a principal to lead the new K-8 Eastbank school that was part of the $122 million bond package approved by district voters last fall.
District officials recently decided to hire a principal for the school a full year ahead of time to be part of the planning team.
The new $34 million school to be built south of Glenwood Springs is in the initial stages of design and is on track to open in August 2017. It will be unique among RFSD schools in that it will house students in preschool programs all the way up through eighth grade.
That will take an experienced leader who ideally has served in a similar setting in the past as building administrator, RFSD Superintendent Diana Sirko said.
“It is exciting, whenever you’re opening a brand new building, to have someone on board who can help create the culture and climate of that facility and then be that building’s leader,” Sirko said. “It’s a wonderful way to forge partnerships with the school and the larger community.”
Although design work will be well under way by the time the new principal is hired, that person will be critical in developing the programming and other details in how the school will operate, she said.
By next year at this time, that person can also begin the process of hiring teachers and staff and training them to be ready when the school opens to students.
Sirko said the salary for what’s called a “planning principal” will be paid out of reserves until it can be built into the annual budget along with the other staffing for the new school.
“This principal will work closely with district administrators, as well as all other internal and external stakeholders, to develop the new school’s vision and programs, and coordinate organizational and construction-related efforts involved in launching a school,” according to a job description that’s posted on the district’s website.
Among the questions that came up at a school design input meeting and community presentation last week were ones about how to design a facility that meets the needs of both elementary- and middle school-aged students.
A common concern among parents is to make sure the experience of younger students is not negatively impacted by being in the same facility with older students.
Schools can be designed in a way to keep the learning areas for kindergarten through fifth grades and sixth-eighth grades somewhat separate, though there will be common spaces, said Anne Weber with BWS Architects, which is designing the new school.
At the same time, there are good opportunities with K-8 schools for the younger students to learn from the older students.
“You want a school environment that engages the students in different ways and in different size groups,” she said during the discussion. “You also want it to address all types of learning styles, emotions and cultures.”
A school of that nature also needs to be flexible for teachers to adapt in coming up with new ways to facilitate learning, Weber said.
Added Sirko, “I’ve never seen an instance where kids don’t rise to the occasion and adapt to their environment.”
The site location is also unique, Weber said, given its direct access to the Roaring Fork River that can be used to enhance learning experiences.
“The opportunities are going to be amazing,” she said.
The school district has formed a design advisory group that is working with the architectural team and project managers to design the new facility and site plan.
A progress report and presentation will be given at another community meeting on March 31.
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