The new Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School has two classroom wings, designed to allow prekindergarteners and kindergartners to share one wing, with first- and second-graders sharing the second wing.
Before the school year began Aug. 24, Principal Ellen Hayes had already shaken up that idea a little, for the benefit of teachers and students, she said.
“I think it’s very important for teachers at various grade levels to talk to other teachers in different grade levels so we can keep the continuum going with the curriculum,” Hayes said.
Some halls have either pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade classes or first- and second-grade classes, while another hallway has kindergarten and second-grade classes.
The change allows for flexibility. For instance, children who are reading at a high level can simply go across the hall instead of having to walk from one wing to the other, Hayes said.
The opening of the $25 million school allowed the second phase of a two-year redistricting process to kick in.
With Monroe Primary’s opening, Eastern Elementary, across Yale Drive from Monroe Primary, now has third- through fifth-graders.
Approximately 575 students formerly from Funkstown, Winter Street, Greenbrier, Pangborn, Fountaindale and Salem Avenue elementary schools were sent to Monroe Primary and Eastern Elementary as part of the redistricting, according to Herald-Mail archives.
Hayes said she expected about 635 students at Monroe Primary.
The school has a local-rated capacity for 626 students, but since 80 of the students are prekindergarten students who only attend school in the morning or afternoon, the school has a full-day equivalent population of about 595, according to school system spokesman Richard Wright.
If the school becomes overcrowded, a metal door that slides down like a garage door, creates a soundproof classroom on the stage, Hayes said.
Monroe is the school system’s second primary school, but the first built to be a primary school. Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education is the other primary school.
The school opened with two morning and two afternoon pre-K classes, eight kindergarten classes, eight first-grade classes and seven second-grade classes, Hayes said. The school also has an autism program for kindergarten through second grade; two special education programs for prekindergarteners; and a life skills program for kindergarten through second-grade students with learning disabilities, Hayes said.
The autism classroom, with about eight students, has special filters on the lights to reduce the intensity of fluorescent lighting, Hayes said.
It also has a sensory room for students who become overstimulated in the regular classroom. The sensory room has a special swing and sensory balls and other items for them to touch, calming them, she said.
Monroe Primary hosted summer school for the autism and special education pre-K classes so those students had a chance to get familiar with their classroom surroundings before the regular school year began on Aug. 24, Hayes said.
The school has a combination cafeteria/auditorium that shares a folding wall with the gym so a larger space can be created for events such as concerts, Hayes said.
The county provided money for a full-size gym so the Washington County Recreation Department can use the gym after school hours for community recreation, Hayes said.
The media center has several computer stations as well as a separate computer classroom. There is another computer lab in the school. Each second-grade classroom has four student computers and the other classrooms each have two student computers, Hayes said.
The school also has a geothermal heating and cooling system, lights that dim to conserve energy and lights that turn off automatically when people leave the room, Head Custodian Tobey Hook said.