Education

Fifth-, sixth-graders find their place at new Linn-Mar intermediate schools

Boulder Peak, Hazel Point welcome students for first time

Students sit in a classroom at Boulder Peak Intermediate School, one of two new intermediate schools for fifth- and sixt
Students sit in a classroom at Boulder Peak Intermediate School, one of two new intermediate schools for fifth- and sixth-grade students in the Linn-Mar Community School District. (Linn-Mar Community School District)
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Background

MARION — Voters in the Linn-Mar school district approved a $55 million bond referendum in September 2018 to construct two intermediate school buildings.

The goal of creating the separate schools for fifth- and sixth-graders — each with the capacity for 800 students — was to alleviate crowding in Linn-Mar’s elementary and middle schools.

After the addition of the new schools, elementary schools would serve kindergarten through fourth grade, and middle schools would serve seventh- and eighth-graders.

A school naming committee made up of parents, staff and community members considered 717 names submitted for the new schools.

Boulder Peak was chosen after being submitted by Indian Creek Elementary fifth-grader Evelyn Horn because “we want to be strong and unstoppable to get to the peak of learning,” according to the Linn-Mar district’s website.

Hazel Point was chosen for the other school because of its historical connection to one of the district’s original one-room schoolhouses.

The district broke ground for the two buildings on June 27, 2019.

What’s happened since

Linn-Mar fifth- and sixth-graders had their first day of school Sept. 14 in the two brand-new buildings.

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“The energy the kids had — there’s a little bit of apprehensiveness at first — but the kids make the building come to life,” said Dan Ludwig, principal of Boulder Peak Intermediate School.

At Hazel Point Intermediate School, Principal Chad Buchholz said students have embraced breaking in a new school.

“You don’t get to do this every day,” he said. “Many students would love to go to a brand-new school on the first day of school. It’s a unique experience, and I hope they recognize that down the road.”

The school year was delayed by three weeks because of the derecho that caused significant damage to several district buildings Aug. 10.

At both Hazel Point and Boulder Peak, the gym roof was damaged, causing water damage to the gym floors, which had to be replaced.

That’s in addition to the ongoing disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Like all students in the Linn-Mar district, those at the intermediate schools are required to wear masks to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The students also started the school year on a hybrid schedule, attending school in-person half the time and online the other half.

Opening a new school after a natural disaster and amid a pandemic was a new challenge, Ludwig said.

“When the derecho hit and we got delayed, because I was so excited to get staff and students back in here, it was a huge bummer,” Ludwig said.

Eleven new staff members were hired at Boulder Peak and one at Hazel Point. The other staff members came from other buildings in the district.

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Adding intermediate buildings is a “unique opportunity” for fifth- and sixth-graders who are ready for some independence, Hazel Point’s Buchholz said.

Students at the intermediate schools have a total of four teachers, so they aren’t changing classes for every period like they would in middle school.

“To watch kids that first day walk in and see the impression the building made, it’s overwhelming, but it’s really neat,” Buchholz said.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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