The Brandon School District is moving forward with plans to build a new intermediate school after voters approved a nearly $6 million bond in December. Because of steady enrollment growth, the district plans to take 5th graders out of elementary schools and 6th graders out of middle school while creating a new intermediate school.
The idea is far from new; the Brookings School District has had an intermediate school for nearly five years.
In a fifth grade science classroom, students are testing to see how successful their lunar modulars are using office supplies and marshmallows.
This is the third of six classes these students will go to today, in a unique approach to grade-school education. It's not an elementary, but not yet a middle school. Every 4th and 5th grade student in the Brookings School District attends Camelot Intermediate School, including Nolen Hansen.
"I have science in one room, then you go to another room and have math and reading and social studies and tech," Hansen said.
"You know what you're going to be doing and when you're going to be doing it," Jackson Krogman said.
Principal David Feidler has overseen the school since before it was built in 2009. He says the new concept works well in Brookings because of the district's fast rate of growth.
"We thought that once we got these kids all together and the teachers all together, we could almost ensure we were getting more of a consistent program throughout the district," Feidler said.
The 4th and 5th grades are separated into pods lined by lockers. Feidler says administration and teachers specially designed the building, keeping students in the same grade together and creating cohesion among the 20 classes. The students say it works.
"It's nice to be with kids your own age," Anya Olson said.
"They don't mess around a ton and be yelling in the halls or anything, or being mean to you (outside)," Krogman said.
At traditional elementary schools, one teacher spends the day instructing multiple subjects. At Camelot, teachers focus on their strongest subjects. Fiedler says it gives the students a better education.
"The fact is, the teachers plan for their passion. They really want to teach science, the science teachers. The math teachers are math experts. The fact that their passion comes through to those kids, the kids can hardly help but have fun and learn," Feidler said.
"I like it like this," Caleb Schaller said. "I like getting up and going to different classes and seeing different teachers."
But there is one complaint Fiedler hears from parents who say they don't like having to drop several elementary school-aged children off at multiple schools. And because students are only at the school for a couple years at a time, administrators don't get to know them as well as they'd like.
"That was the biggest fear we've all had coming into this. And that's though, especially when you're trying to build relationships," Feidler said.
But as Feidler focuses on his students, he says this unique approach to education is the perfect fit for the district.
Later this year, the district plans to add on four classrooms to hold an additional 50 students who will come to Camelot next year. Because of overcrowding in the younger grades, six classes of 3rd graders will also go to school at the intermediate school.