Column: Enrollment changes at Prairie have major impact

The doors of Prairie Elementary opened in 2001 with a design capacity of 1,150 students. At that time, we housed 934 kindergarten through fifth-grade students, along with an Early Childhood Special Education program. In our available space we filled 44 general education classrooms (original design of 48 regular classrooms). Our special education students and English Language Learners also had classroom space. There were two art rooms. There was a Teacher Planning Center and Computer Lab in all three wings. In 2010, our growing enrollment prompted us to move our fifth-graders into an addition at our current Middle School.

Currently, Prairie houses 1,216 kindergarten through fourth-grade students. That’s 282 more students here with one less grade level than when the school opened.  To accommodate 54 general education classrooms, we have converted three special education classrooms, two computer labs and two art rooms into general education classroom space. We continue to house the Early Childhood Special Education program, though their space has been decreased by half. The Teacher Planning Centers now serve as space for specialized services for EL and Special Education students. Our conference rooms that were once used for testing, small groups and meetings are now housing teacher office space for support staff. Many of our storage spaces have been condensed and converted to student or teacher work space.  The commons areas, which were initially designed for small group learning, are now additionally used for specialized programming. Because of our storage woes, our commons areas now house many various storage cupboards, text kits, free play supplies, paper rolls and other equipment that should be stored elsewhere.  

Transitions in Prairie hallways, especially over the lunch period, can be an adventure. With potentially two grade levels traveling at any given time, there can be close to 500 students moving through our hallways. Our restrooms are crowded; at high-use times of day classes can be backed up for longer periods. Our cooks and support staff move 1,216 students through the cafeteria in roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes. This doesn’t leave our students much time to eat. To start earlier in the day is not feasible, as we serve between 600-800 student breakfasts every day; once breakfast clean-up is complete, our cooks move to lunch preparation.

We love our school and are proud of the work we do here! Every day, we do our very best to provide quality educational experiences to our students under crowded conditions. If you weren’t able to attend the open house but would still like to come out and visit us, we welcome you to stop in the office and ask for a tour. We encourage you to come and see Prairie in action!