Fort Dodge Community School District

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Welcome to Cooper - from The Messenger

January 5, 2022

When the students at Cooper Elementary School returned to school after winter break, they didn't actually return to the school building that they left in December.

Cooper Elementary has temporarily relocated across town to the former Riverside Elementary School, 733 F St., for the remainder of the school year while the Cooper building undergoes a renovation. While the rest of the school district returned to the classroom on Monday, Cooper kids went back on Tuesday.

"So far, so good," Cooper Principal Kate Simpson said Tuesday afternoon.

In preparation for the move, and anticipating less space in the Riverside building, four sections, or classes, were temporarily moved to Butler Elementary School at the beginning of this school year. These sections will return to the Cooper building along with the others when the renovation is complete.

The renovation project will include a new HVAC system in the school, new ceilings, lighting and flooring. It will also widen the doors in the building to make them more ADA accessible.

"We'll move back next year and be back in a brand new building," Simpson said. "The bones of it will look the same, but it will look completely different on the inside."

The main concern when planning this move, Simpson said, was trying to figure out how the district was going to get its students across town every day. Because of the relocation, every student became eligible for bussing and the school found that 60% of its students would need to bus to Riverside every day.

The district recruited a few new bus drivers to cover just the Cooper route. Cooper students who already took the bus to school prior to the move are continuing on their normal bus routes. Students who are newly-eligible to ride the bus and aren't being transported by parents, family or daycare, are picked up by buses at Cooper in the morning and driven to Riverside by 7:30 a.m. in time for breakfast. At the end of the day, those students are bussed back to Cooper to walk home or be picked up, Simpson explained.

Planning the move to Riverside took several months and many hands, Simpson said. Teachers and staff worked with facilities and maintenance to figure out what classroom equipment and materials would be needed to finish the school year at Riverside, and what could go into storage until the fall.

Simpson and the Cooper staff spent much of the fall semester preparing the young Cooper students for this big move.

On Tuesday, Simpson said she felt the transition to Riverside has gone smoothly for the students. The day started with an assembly in the gym, and each class took tours of the whole building throughout the day. District staff helped students navigate to their new classrooms Tuesday morning.

"The concern was that not a lot of them (the students) had ever been in this building before," Simpson said.

Some students initially had some anxiety and felt nervous for the change when they were first told, she said.

"So we started prepping with social stories and just conversations about what the building would look like," Simpson said. "I don't know that we had any tears yet. As soon as they saw their teachers, they were just super at ease, so I can't praise my team enough for the amount of prep work that they did."

Jensen Builders Ltd., of Fort Dodge, was awarded the bid for the $4.4 million project in November. The project will be paid for using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds.

The renovation begins this month with asbestos removal in the Cooper building. The $67,000 contract for asbestos removal was awarded to Environmental Property Solutions, of Urbandale, in December.

Until the fall, Riverside will remain Cooper's home, but Simpson reminds the students to look at it as "another adventure along the way" and that they're all in this together.

"It's not the building that makes us Cooper," Simpson said. "We are what makes us Cooper."

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