Next year Ames School in Riverside will be a three section school, having three classrooms for every grade. 

At the April 19 school board meeting the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education unanimously approved plans to hire an additional teacher and divide the multipurpose room at Ames into two rooms to create an additional classroom.

This year, 50 Ames students are split between two first-grade classrooms, with 25 students in each class. 

Next year those 50 students will move into three second-grade classrooms, allowing the second grade at Ames to meet the district’s policy of having no more than 20 students in K-3 classroom. Waivers to that policy have been routinely approved in the past. 

Ames is the second largest elementary school in the district with 363 students, trailing only Central School’s 403 students.

“This is the largest amount of students since I’ve been here,” said Ames Principal Todd Gierman, who is completing his fourth year at Ames.

In recent years, many students living in the Ames attendance area have had to go to other schools in District 96 because of a lack of space. Before the school board vote, two parents of Ames students implored to board to add the additional second grade class.

“I believe that all students in District 96 deserve small class sizes not just those enrolled in times of low enrollment,” said Katie Gregory, the mother of an Ames first-grader.

Currently, 14 Central School first-graders live in the Ames attendance areas and Wendy Doctor, the mother of a Central first-grader also urged the board to approve the additional section at Ames.

This year, Ames School has three sections of every grade except for first grade.

A drywall partition will be built to divide the multipurpose room into two classrooms. One will be used for music and the other for art.

A kindergarten class will move into the current art room and a second-grade class will take over the kindergarten classroom that will be vacated.

Lunch will move from the multipurpose room to the gym.

“If anything, eating in the gym will be a benefit because we’ll have more space,” Gierman said.

The main issue with eating lunch in the gym will be finding a place to store the lunch tables.

“Right now we’re exploring the option of a possible shed outside to store the lunch tables,” Gierman said.

The kindergarten class moving into the current art classroom will be a morning kindergarten class. As a result, that classroom will also be used for advanced Quest classes in the afternoon. Currently, Quest classes sometimes meet in the teachers’ lounge, a conference room or the multipurpose room.

“Up until now we’ve had pretty tight quarters for our Quest classes. This opens it up a little for us,” Gierman said. “I look forward to having a designated space for our Quest teacher.”

Enrollment at Ames, which serves the North Riverside portion of the district as well as northern Riverside, has been growing in recent years. Last year, the district purchased a house just east of the school. The house at 902 Repton Road will be torn down this summer and the district is in the midst of a process to determine how to use the new space. The school board could approve constructing an addition to provide additional classroom space at Ames.

However, no decision has yet been made and any construction work would not take place until the summer of 2018 at the earliest, Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye said.

With the change proposed for next year, some currently displaced students could be invited to attend Ames School if they wish. Under district policy, a student who begins at one elementary school has the right to remain at that elementary school if they wish. 

The additional classroom will result in fewer students in the Ames attendance area being moved to other schools in the district.

“You hate to displace families,” Gierman said. “It’ll be a little bit tight for the next couple of years until we get the addition, but we’re going to make it work.”