OGDEN -- Students, teachers and staff at Dee Elementary School start all events with the school's song, and Tuesday's open house was no different. But this year they all have much more to be singing about.
Things are looking up at the school, and the evidence is all around.
The walls on the main floor have fresh stripes of blue paint, and the classrooms upstairs are now divided by partitions making them, officially, rooms. In the past, the round school had open classrooms, where students were hearing instruction from as many as four teachers at once. Now, the rooms have a quieter ambience.
Sixteen truckloads of furniture were removed from the school as part of the $175,000 renovation project, creating a sense of openness and greater safety.
Changes also are taking place academically, as the school is one of three in the Ogden School District working from a three-year School Improvement Grant.
Principal Sondra Jolovich-Motes is thrilled with the changes. She showed a series of posters listing all the "wins" the school has had since she was assigned to be its principal, and said, "We have had significant changes to our instruction."
Teachers are working as a team on curriculum mapping and deciding what works best for students. Parents are contacted weekly to review how their children are doing. And learning time has increased by 15 minutes each day to bring students up to par with other Utah schools.
Jolovich-Motes said the plans are working: Test scores are higher, and students are doing homework, reading and doing math at higher levels.
And now, she believes, the improved work environment will only make things better. Jolovich-Motes proudly showed each classroom, pointing out that they are now separated and quieter, with work stations and much more technology. Fourth-graders now will have technology rooms like other schools in the district -- a welcome change.
"The school board decided to allocate money to give us wiring so we can have computers in our rooms," Jolovich-Motes said as she pointed out computers at every desk for fourth-graders.
There are also enhanced kindergarten and library spaces.
"Our media specialist will now be able to teach from here," she said as she pointed to a large computer whiteboard.
Board member Shane Story said the changes at Dee were a long time coming. The enhancements were possible through capital improvement funds.
Originally, board members were looking to buy cabinetry that could be installed when a new school is built, but they couldn't find anything that would work properly.
"We decided to go the efficient route," Story said of the partitions and cabinetry now placed in the school.
"It is so much better here. It is really good," board member Jennifer Zundel said. She noted that a new Dee school is the next capital project for the district, saying, "It is definitely on the board's radar."
Most taking the tour noted the happy atmosphere in the school, and Superintendent Noel Zabriskie agreed: "It's important for the education of these kids. We have great teachers, and you can feel it when you walk in here."