44 teachers to switch classrooms over the summer

Throughout the Ames High building, teachers walk every day into rooms in which they have held sway, personalized, decorated, and tutored their students for years. For them, their classroom is more than just a classroom: it holds memories, provides comfort, acts as a second home. Students feel this too; they spend semesters and years going to the same rooms to learn from the same teachers every day. Community is built between neighboring teachers, departments work together as a section, and students leave their mark in certain classrooms, either with permission or rather secretly. It can seem impossible to imagine specific hallways not being populated by the same classes: the sun-drenched wideness of the foreign language hallway, the occasional smells drifting through the FCS hallway, the sterile normalcy of the math and science wings. But AHS principal Spence Evans sees this compartmentalized segregation of the school as precisely a reason to change, and that’s why he has planned for forty-four teachers to switch classrooms starting next fall. “There are too many blocked areas,” Evans said in explaining the motivation for the move. “It’s too separate, like ‘Here’s the ALP hallway’ and ‘Here’s the Special Ed hallway.’” The addition of new teachers in the English and Social Studies departments and the opportunity for teachers to collaborate and experiment with new ideas were also factors. “Just having options going outside of the traditional classroom setting is great,” English teacher James Webb said. “We want to collaborate with different disciplines, because we have a lot of the same kids [in simultaneous classes] and they don’t always make those connections.” In order to be “as fair as possible,” Evans began working on the shift over spring break by himself, and later brought in associate principals Mike Avise and Chris Paulson to review and finalize the plan. “I knew it wasn’t going to be popular,” Evans said, “and I didn’t want any hard feelings directed at anyone else. So I mostly did it by myself. And you can only blame me [for any problems].” The primary shifts are in the almost complete displacement of the math department, which will be mostly housed in the current English and ALP hallways; the foreign language department, which will move to the eastern end of the biology wing; and the movement of roughly half of the English department to the foreign language hallway. Despite these changes, Evans insists he tried to keep departments close. “I didn’t want to do anything to weaken [individual departments],” Evans said. “I made sure that [fragmented departments] got offices to stay together. But we’ll just have to wait and see.” Math teacher Stuart Sparkman is more hesitant about his department’s shift and separation, and his own move out of room 34. “We’re used to being together, so [the move] will take more effort,” he said. “And I really like the room I have now–it’s nice and roomy.” Downsides to the switcharoo go beyond room space, however. The Ames-Wulfrath exchange program run by the German department for over 25 years has left its literal mark in teacher Sam Reichart’s room since 1999. “The German kids who visit have always painted their names on the walls every year,” senior Nickie Williams said. “It has a lot of meaning.” Reichart’s move to room 9 in the fall will require the historic bricks to be painted over, which has caused a lot of grief from those involved with the program. “You can’t take the walls with you,” Williams said. “Most of those [German] kids aren’t coming back to America anytime soon.” Despite the sadness of leaving their long-held rooms–and the memories they hold–behind, teachers indicate that they’re willing to go forward with Evans’ plan. “It’s going to be different,” English teacher Chuck Ripley said, “but I don’t have a big problem with it.” Sparkman sees it as a chance to continue excelling, as is Ames High tradition. “We can do it,” he said. “We’re can-do people.” Summer improvements to be made Principal Spence Evans promises that besides the room changes, “there will be no big ‘Wow!’ things on the first day” of the 2011-12 school year. However, there will be a few improvements to the building, he says. Among the most noticeable: -the new junior-senior room in the cafeteria conference room; -landscaping features in the courtyard, to allow for more seating and less erosion; -replacing the roofing on the fine arts wing and auditorium; -updating the climate-control system to provide more consistent heating and air-conditioning. “We’re not closing campus or anything,” Evans said. “You don’t have to worry about that.”