In four seconds, Sonny Zinn can get from her office to any classroom in the building. But, next year the principal will have to walk much quicker to get between places in the new Isabella Bird Community School.
Beginning fall 2014, Isabella Bird will expand to kindergarten through fifth grade and relocate to the new building in Eastbridge that will be completed this summer.
“It’s so exciting. It’s going to be great to have olders and youngers together in the same building,” Zinn says.
They expect 276 students for the 2014-15 year and have slated one second-, third- and fourth-grade class. The new building, located at 2701 N. Lima, sits on a 10-acre site, “So much space we may not know what to do with all of it,” Zinn says.
The transition is immense for the school that began in 2012 with 12 students.
For two years, the school has shared a building with High Tech Early College and Strive PREP Elementary on the Samsonite Campus. The communal playground looks more appropriate for a backyard than the outdoor area for three schools.
“We’ve certainly learned to be creative with our space,” Zinn says and laughs.
But the meager enrollment numbers and intimate space have never been seen as a downfall. “There was a lot to being in this tiny space. We know each other so well.”
The school operates by the philosophy, “You can’t teach the mind before you reach the heart.” The entire Isabella Bird community believes in close emotional connections, fitting for the small building.
Zinn says the location has been a “lovely” beginning to the school and she is confident they can keep the close-knit community intact as they expand.
Juli Pearson, Stapleton resident and mother of a 6-year-old Isabella Bird kindergartener, says she chose the school because of the community.
“It’s amazing how many parents are always going in and out. Their door is open, and parent involvement is key,” she says on the phone as she’s leaving a day of volunteering at Isabella Bird. Two days a week, she teaches Mindful Movement, a morning class that gets kids ready to learn through breathing, stretching and strengthening. She will continue the program next year.
With its new larger facility, the school will offer workshops for parents on the language and instructional strategies used in classrooms so they can use them at home.
Parents will also have the opportunity to help teach on Fridays in the exploratory program when adults share their expertise.
With hopes that Isabella Bird can potentially expand through eighth grade, the auditorium and cafeteria were designed to accommodate a middle school.
With an emphasis on diversity—currently 37 percent minority—Isabella Bird will become a Newcomer Center in 2015. Newcomer students are usually immigrants with little or no English skills and may have limited experience in a classroom. Increasingly, newcomer school centers are popping up around the country.
“I’m looking forward to the stories, perspectives and experiences the kids—not just the newcomer students—will bring to the school,” Zinn says.
Zinn is looking forward to working with older grades again—something she has missed since her previous leadership job at Horizons K-8 School in Boulder, where she still lives and commutes from—the difficult part of the job.
At the beginning of the school year, younger and older students will be paired to start building relationships. Because younger students have the better sense of the school, they will help teach what it means to be a part of Isabella Bird.
“We’ve got a couple of kids who could run our school tours,” Zinn says and laughs. “They just get it and like to tell people about it.”
According to Zinn, administration is currently preparing for a “rigorous” process of interviews and applications to fill eight classroom positions, as well as art and music positions. For more information, visit the Isabella Bird Community School Facebook page.