The first year in the new Bryant Elementary School on the city’s near northside has gone well, drawing a bevy of Sioux City School District preschoolers to the distinctive building laid out in modern ways.
“We’re so grateful for the community’s support of the one-cent sales tax to help make modern schools, like Bryant Elementary, a reality for our students,” district Director of Elementary Education Brian Burnight said as the school year reached the three-quarters mark.
“The new Bryant Elementary is a welcoming campus designed with ample natural lighting and student-centered classrooms. Since the opening of the new Bryant, we have welcomed more than 100 new families, including three new classes of preschoolers,” Burnight continued.
As the school opened in August, fifth-grader Joselyn Ibarra was among 455 students, many of whom who attended Spalding Park Elementary School while the new Bryant was under construction at the same site as the old one. She said the wait for the new building was worth it.
“A lot of things are nice and colorful,” Ibarra said. “We have a bigger gym and a bigger cafeteria.”
She added the input from a family member who attends North High School: “My sister, she says it looks like a college, it doesn’t look like an elementary.”
The former Bryant school, which dated to 1890, was the oldest in the district, which is going through a major undertaking over the last two decades to construct new elementary buildings.
In 2011 discussions, there was considerable neighborhood controversy on where the Bryant School should be built. After a new 10-acre spot could not be found, school officials settled on a three-level option at the same spot where the old school was located.
The final result was a $24 million building with 106,950 square feet, built to hold up to 625 pupils.
Mary Kay Kollars, who has been Bryant principal for 12 years, said, “It has been a long journey…It is pretty much a dream fulfilled.”
Burnight said the students have performed well as the year has gone on.
“Bryant students have shown excellent academic growth in reading, yielding over 7 percent growth in reading proficiency at the mid-year benchmark. Students in the new building also benefit from one-to-one technology that supports instruction and learning in every classroom,” Burnight said.
The staff approaches 85 in the building, with lots of support personnel among the 18 classroom teachers.
The building has three levels, although from some outside vantages, only two can be seen, with the lower level below ground. Preschool, kindergarten and first grade are on the lower floor, second grade is on the main floor with commons and many specialty areas and the upper floor holds third through fifth grades.
Right inside the west entrance, which has a modern security system, is the office with administrative wing. That’s where the Bryant School sign in sandstone, cut and kept from the 1890 building, is located.
A leaf theme is present on lots of lofted hangings near ceilings, often in green. That’s quickly seen as people enter the expansive commons from the main west doors.
As a feeder to North High School, Bryant also has a lot of the blue colors integrated into the design, including the bricking.
The main-floor commons is adjoined by a gymnasium, a computer lab and media center. The gym has a full-size basketball court and two side courts, plus a full stage and band room on its west side, with retractable wall that is sound-deadening so students can do both at the same time.
“There is a lot of ‘oh wow!’ For me, it is the media center,” Kollars said.
The main art room has two kilns and a special two-way case that allows people in the hall to see projects on display. In other new-style flourishes, there are a collection of modern desk chairs that can slightly rock forward and back, for use by the fidgety younger children.
Photo by Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal.