Johnston Elementary School Reopens After Year Under Construction

JOHNSTON, Iowa – The Johnston Community School District is welcoming students to a new elementary school Friday.

Henry A. Wallace Elementary School resides in what was once the old middle school.

Principal at Henry A. Wallace Elementary School Suzie Pearson said the old middle school was gutted and redone for a 21st century learning environment.

“This building also has movable class walls, so kiddos can spill out into the community spaces so they are not contained to the four walls or the studio that they are in,” Pearson said.

The classrooms are called “studios.” Each grade has its own section of the building with four to five classrooms. All the grade levels share one community space that the teachers can decorate.

Third Grade Teacher Kara Paulson said she is excited for a flexible classroom with an open learning environment.

“It gives us that community feel. Getting to know each and every one of those students. We say every kid are our kids, and this gives us the opportunity to know every kid, because we are. We are out in those spaces moving around. Having personal conversations and academic conversations,” Paulson said.

The school has different levels of seating for the students to choose, with high or low top tables.

“You know you look around and the bright colors just itself draws you in. It feels like home. It’s bringing that academic setting really to a place where kids feel comfortable to take risks and be vulnerable,” Paulson said.

Bright colors are scattered throughout the building on the walls, furniture and accessories. There are no lockers in the building, instead students put their belongings in a cubbie.

“We wanted them to be able to have a clear visual for students to really be able to be in the those spaces, use those spaces for lots of different activities. We also wanted it to be visible for any staff members that were in and wanted to just do observations,” Pearson said.

In addition, the school holds Johnston Early Learning Academy for pre-school students.

The project had a $16 million budget, and the district spent $14 million. Construction began June 2017 and completed August 2018.

Johnston Schools start the 2018-2019 school year Friday.