Superintendent's Corner: Southworth Elementary School Will Be Great for Students, Staff

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As the last month of the school year approaches, students and families may be turning their attention to much-needed summer activities, trips or the other fun things we get to do. For the school district, the end of the school year will signal a highly visible and important transition in the implementation of the final stages of our construction plan.

First, right after the last day of school, curriculum materials for Southworth Elementary School will move from their temporary home over to the new building. Upon completion of that move, demolition of the old building begins. That space on the Yelm Middle School campus will be replaced with the new football and soccer field, track, baseball and fastpitch facilities.

Concurrently over the summer, the new Southworth Elementary School will be completed. Just like the new middle school, this education space will be great for students and staff.

Here are some of the key features of this school:

• Autism Center: The new school will have a classroom space and an outdoor area designed specifically to meet the needs of students with autism. The outdoor area also allows students to move, exercise and complete physical therapy.

• Canoe Journey: In collaboration with the Nisqually Tribe, a canoe journey theme permeates through the school. Education “destinations” are located throughout the building for students and visitors to learn about tribal culture, the Salish Sea and the importance of water, salmon and the land to our indigenous people.

• The Southworth Reading Nook: A portion of the beautiful library is dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Southworth. Mrs. Southworth was widely known to be a champion of literacy with students throughout Yelm.

• Fitness areas: The play areas at the school are significantly improved. The hard surfaces will be painted with games and activities to help students with sensory challenges. There is also a walking trail for students, staff and community users that will feature info-graphics. The school plans to support daily fitness walks, but it also provides families an area to move about during sporting events after school.

• Flexible cafeteria, gym and stage space: This area can be one, two or three areas to fit the needs of any activity. There is definitely space for large performances, sporting events, or smaller music activities.

• Separation of bus and parent drop off traffic: Parent drop off will occur in an area completely separate from the bus loop. This is much safer. Also, there is a specialized bus drop off for students who need specialized accommodations.

These features, along with vibrant colors and positive themes, truly make the new building a special place for kids to learn. Construction of this wonderful school is both on time and under budget. It will be ready for staff to move in during the late summer and will be ready to open when school resumes in September. We will have a community open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 8.

Until then, have a great end of the school year and a wonderful summer.

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Brian Wharton is the superintendent for Yelm Community Schools.

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