By: dgardner

New look at Firgrove Elementary ensures achievement, inspires hope

BCRA recently completed work at Firgrove Elementary in Puyallup, WA. Scope of work included site walks, exterior finishings and miscellaneous improvements to the existing structure.

Puyallup Herald
By Andrew Fickes
September 10, 2014

Firgrove Elementary School on South Hill carries the distinction of being one of the oldest buildings in the Puyallup School District, and over the past several years, it had the physical attributes to prove it.

The tile flooring in the hallways was worn away, paint on the walls had no rhyme or reason, carpeting in the classrooms was outdated and shrubbery on the grounds shrouded classroom windows, leaving little sunlight to enter and liven the room for students.

But over the summer, the district found enough in its budget to support facade improvements to the school. And today, the school, which serves one of the more diverse student populations in the district, is shiny and new.

“The kids are so proud of the building,” said Principal Kristen Schroeder. “They are ooing and awing. The pride today is very incredible. Not only are (students) achieving more than they have in the past, they are proud of going to Firgrove, and that is exciting.”

The building remodel included all new tile flooring in the hallways, new windows, new carpet in the classrooms of the main building and in the historic school building. New landscaping took away the overgrown bushes, so now light is pouring into the classroom, Schroeder said.

Teachers especially love the muted grays and green colors on the walls of the classroom and the additional carpeting.

“With the muted colors, there is less stimulation,” said Romy Haney, a first grade teacher. “Things are quiet. Kids are a little more calmer. Having full carpet gives more space to kids to learn and allows me to configure the room differently.”

Schroeder became the new principal at Firgrove starting in the 2013-2014 school year. Before that she was a principal at James Sales Elementary School in the Franklin-Pierce School District for eight years. Her collaboration with teachers there earned the school a Washington Achievement Award and her program 12 Days of Hope was featured on “The Ellen Degeneres Show.”

At Firgrove, there is a chorus of praise showered on Schroeder. And the one feeling she brings to the school that teachers agree on is hope.

After Jeannine Medvedich, the vice principal at Firgrove, saw the quality education Schroeder was creating for students, she pulled her son out of his current school and placed him at Firgrove. Her daughter is a kindergartener as well at the school.

“They can get the best education here,” Medvedich said. “Kristen is the best administrator ever.”

When Schroeder came to Firgrove last school year, the student population there had been falling behind in test scores over the past 15 years when compared to other schools in the district.

“We have a minority/majority school, which is very different from other schools in the Puyallup School District,” Schroeder said.

Some of the languages spoken at Firgrove include Spanish, Russian, Cambodian and Korean.

Starting last spring, Schroeder said student test scores began turning around.

“We worked really hard last school year in outlook for students and belief in themselves,” Schroeder said. “We were up in all subject areas and all grades and significantly up in third grade. In third grade we broke through the 90 percentile barrier. We had one particular third grade classroom that was all above 90 percentile in test scores in both reading and math.”

Schroeder said that unfortunately sometime there is the assumption that children of diversity and poverty can’t perform as well.

“That’s not true,” she said. “We can do it.”

To ensure that continued success, the school received a five-year grant representing a partnership with the Puget Sound Educational Service District and the YMCA.

“It puts a full-time staff person here to manage our after school program,” Schroeder said.

The after school program will include an hour of academic instruction and an hour of extension activities, which would be composed of more integrated learning like art and music. Toward the end of the five years, Schroeder said PSESD will phase out and YMCA will provide full support.

“I had the same program in my last school, and we came from being in jeopardy to being achievement award winners,” Schroeder explained.

The after school program recently received approval from the Puyallup School Board. Schroeder plans to launch the program no later than Oct. 1. More than 120 children will be enrolled in the program to start. Schroeder said the physical changes to the building as well as the improvement in student test scores represent a rebirth for the school. She said everything they do at the school falls in line with ensuring achievement and inspiring hope.

Schroeder was proud to hire 14 new staff members. She said the change among staff and students is palpable.

“There is hope,” she said.

View original article via the Puyallup Herald


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