Lincoln Elementary School now has been operational for five years. Staff and students are fortunate to have a beautiful facility that was built with our students’ best interests in mind. The school offers many advantages that benefit students educationally.

We now have about 540 students attending Lincoln (including our preschool), making us the largest elementary school in Ottawa. The school was built to house four classes at each grade level, plus a pre-school room where two classes attend (a half day each).

The layout of the school is such that the building is divided into two wings. We have the primary wing, where preschool through second grade are located, and the intermediate end, where you can find third through fifth grades. Dividing our two ends are computer labs, a library and our special education rooms. We are also fortunate enough to have a lunch room and a wonderful gymnasium where students can learn about health and fitness. Each classroom has its own set of lockers for a total of 506 lockers in the school.

If you did not get the opportunity to go on one of the tours of the building when we were first opening, you can be assured the school is a bright and lively place designed in a way that is advantageous to student learning.

As a reader, you might be wondering why we are going into such great detail about the setup of our building. The point here is, while we love being a part of such a great atmosphere with so many wonderful students and teachers, managing a school with 540 students ages 4 to 11 is a major undertaking. In our classrooms, we are responsible for supporting all 540 students emotionally and academically, all while doing what is best for every student individually. Our students are not “numbers.”  They are individual children for whom we care and take time to evaluate and serve in the best ways we know how.

One benefit our students have are the two “group rooms,” one sitting at each end of the school. These rooms are open on each side and are easily accessible to all classrooms. The rooms are used for many activities during the day. They are used for small group instruction done daily to benefit students who need additional support in reading and math. The rooms also provide us with the space necessary to effectively implement MTSS (Multi Tiered System of Support). This program, which required small group instruction, has been adopted by our district and already is showing positive results for our students after only two years of implementation at Lincoln.

The rooms are used for students of different grade levels to come together and meet for lessons and presentations. They are used for individual testing so teachers may monitor student progress without classroom distractions. The rooms also are used as gathering spots upon dismissal. On the primary end, all students who leave with siblings or other students meet and check out with teachers. This allows us to track all of our students and make sure they are leaving together as instructed and with the appropriate people. Tracking the dismissal of more than 500 children is certainly a major task and must be done in an organized manner for the safety of our students. The other group room is used at the end of the day to line up all students who ride buses and make sure they are leaving on the appropriate bus.

We recently learned the Ottawa school board is considering taking our two large group rooms and turning them into classrooms. Losing these spaces would be detrimental to the students’ well-being. These rooms are being used for educational purposes at almost all times throughout the day. More importantly, adding two more classrooms means potentially adding 40 or more students to our population at Lincoln. While our district now is finding itself in a bind because we are out of classroom space, turning Lincoln into a school of nearly 600 children should not be an option. Our school was not built to house 600 students. The challenges we now face with scheduling special classes (guidance, library, art, music, technology and physical education), lunches, extended learning times, title one reading support, recesses, bathroom breaks, etc) already are extremely difficult. Not to mention the fact that we only have one principal and one full-time counselor in our building to handle all the discipline issues and other emergencies that may come up during the day.

As educators in this amazing district, we feel it is important to reiterate the fact that we truly enjoy our jobs, our students and the professionals we work with each day. We feel blessed to teach at Lincoln.

It is not in our students’ best interests, however, to get rid of an important teaching space so we can pack more children into a school that was simply not built to support more than 500 students. We ask our school board to carefully consider our students before making such a decision. This issue is on the agenda for Monday’s school board meeting. We hope a decision is reached that is in the best interests of the students. Please consider attending in support of Lincoln students.

— Megan Morris and Kari Parks, Ottawa Education Association Building Representatives for Lincoln Elementary School