Last week, the Vermillion school board approved a University of South Dakota education lab as part of the new addition to Jolley School, which houses second through fifth graders.
Under an agreement, USD will pay approximately $40,000 up-front and lease space for the education lab for 20 years. The USD education department will use the lab as an observation room. With the soundproof room and one-way mirror, USD students and staff will observe Vermillion school teachers and students in the adjoining classroom.
"The school will let people know they are part of an observation classroom," said Linda Reetz, interim dean of the USD education department.
The arrangement with the Vermillion schools is similar to other projects used by the university, Reetz said. USD entered into a lease agreement for the Jolley project because the university cannot own or build on another party's property, she said.
"We have a lab like this (at another site) to offer education students their Reading Recovery training," she said. "The (USD) students are behind the glass so their teacher can sit on one side and talk about how the teacher on the other side is working with the child and reading."
However, the Jolley School setting will provide an experience that can't be reproduced in a college classroom, Reetz said.
With the Jolley School lab, an entire group of USD students can observe an actual classroom setting without creating a distraction, Reetz said.
"Typically, one to three (USD) students observe in each classroom in the elementary or high school, then come back and share what they saw," Reetz said. "Now, (a large group) can have the same kind of interaction without so many strangers in the classroom, messing up the teaching dynamics."
Because the education lab is soundproof, USD faculty members can talk to their own students during the observation, Reetz said.
The USD lab will dovetail well with the Jolley School addition, which is expected to open this fall, said Vermillion school board chairman Nick Merrigan. The USD lease payment will cover the additional architect's fee and construction cost for the lab, he said.
"Our new construction obviously makes this whole process easier," he said. "We simply incorporate (the lab) at the beginning and add some square footage."
Vermillion and USD officials worked together on the observation room, with floor plans calling for a lab of 273 square feet, Merrigan said. The entire Jolley School addition should run an estimated $130 per square foot, but the final figure won't be known until bids are awarded in March, he said.
The observation room will benefit the Jolley School students and staff as well as the USD visitors, Merrigan said. "It should make our existing teachers better," he said.
The Vermillion and USD officials had considered placing the education lab between two rooms for exposure to more than one set of Jolley School students and staff, Merrigan said.
�But we settled on the outside of the building with one room (for the lab),� he said. �The USD students and professors could then slip in and out of the side doors.�
Reetz agreed with the move. �Being in the corner, we are not as disturbing to the school as (would be) a number of university students going in and out. The very first entrance gets us right into the room, and we don�t have to walk through the school,� she said.
The education lab was included as part of the project costs for the Jolley School addition, said Superintendent Mark Froke. At this week�s board meeting, the district issued $1.69 million in capital-outlay certificates at about 4.5 percent interest for 20 years. Of that figure, $1.39 million goes toward the Jolley School addition and $300,000 to a ventilation project at the middle school.
The observation room will run the length of the normal classroom, Froke said. It will contain room for at least two rows of seating to accommodate approximately 26 people.
Reetz presented a letter of commitment to the project at Monday night�s school board meeting, Froke said. The letter verified USD�s desire to establish a long-term relationship with the Vermillion school district, he said.
The long-term lease brings stability to the education lab and could open other doors of cooperation between the Vermillion schools and USD, Froke said.
After their exposure to the local schools, those USD students may choose to take positions in the Vermillion system after graduation, Froke said.
�We have an opportunity to employ many teachers who are graduates of the USD program, so this will give us an opportunity to have a hand in their training,� he said. �We feel we have an excellent school system, and anytime we get prospective teachers in our system, it can only help attract individuals.�