Bond Seeks to Improve Grand Island Public Schools

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- For the Grand Island schools on the continuous calendar, Wednesday was their first day of school. And although excitement is in the air, teachers at Jefferson and Starr Elementary Schools are concerned about all the distractions their students will have to face.

"One of our main goals is to make us have the most effective learning environment possible for our students and the open-concept buildings don't allow that to happen with the noise and the traffic flow through the building," said Nate Balcom an integration specialist at Starr Elementary.

That's why the Board of Education voted unanimously to put a referendum in front of voters. The $69.9 million bond includes seven projects, two of which are at Jefferson and Starr. Teachers there say it's a juggling act, balancing the distractions because of the open concept.

"Imagine trying to stay focused, trying to learn in an environment where you're hearing multiple voices going on...that would bother anybody," said John Hauser the Principal of Starr Elementary.

Students will be studying in the library, when all of a sudden, a class will need to go through to get to another room on the other side of the school.

To curb kids distractions, teachers use shower curtains because they don't have doors.

"With the shower curtain, it doesn't stop sound. The makeshift walls do not stop sound from coming in. Students, when they hear a sound they look over there, you have to reel them back in all the time and it's very distracting," said Jason Zelasney a second-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary.

Distractions including neighboring music classrooms... among others.

"Third-grade classroom, where the bathrooms are literally right in the classroom. She has a storage unit trying to partition it off just so the flushing doesn't happen all day long," said Jeanna Fiala the Principal at Jefferson Elementary.

The bond seeks to build new Jefferson and Starr Elementary schools with real walls and doors.

Ballots will be mailed around Aug. 20 and submitted by Sept. 9.