There is no textbook or online instructions on how to move a school from one campus to another. But that is just what Desert Sands Unified School District was called upon to do.
During the modernization project taking place at James Madison Elementary School in Indio, structural engineers found areas of concern with the amount of corrosion on steel supports in one building. The official report was received just after 5:00 pm on a Friday. An emergency meeting was called by senior staff members who agreed to reconvene on Saturday morning to take action prior to school resuming on Monday morning. A proposal was made and the DSUSD School Board met in an emergency session on Sunday evening to approve the recommended action.
It was clear that the No. 1 concern was safety of both students and staff. Several options were considered including splitting the school, with classes remaining in the buildings deemed safe and others relocated to another district property. But no one really liked the idea of separating the Madison family. How could we keep everyone together?
In June 2016, the district closed an elementary school because of drop in overall student population. A portion of the school became Adams Early Childhood Learning Center but the rest of the campus was not being used. Was there room to move Madison Elementary school in its entirety? Did we have time and manpower to get the campus ready? The answer to the first one was yes. There were 20 classrooms available. Some were being used as office space and we could reclaim them for academic use. But how could we possibly move an entire school in a week?
A plan was made. Messages were sent to parents and to staff. Moving companies were hired. Sleeves were rolled up. And everyone committed to making it happen. Classes at Madison were cancelled for one week. On Monday morning meetings were held to answer questions for staff and parents and on that very same day the plan became action as teachers loaded their cars. Staff from the district office and from other schools showed up to pitch in and we were on a roll.
Superintendent Bailey helped unload trucks. Senior staff members washed down walls. Assistance came from throughout the district from every department and other schools as shelves were reassembled and loaded with books; art work was hung on walls as if it had always been there; desks were cleaned and lined up with nametags for each child. Teachers worked together in one classroom then moved to the next. The rally cry was, “where to you need me next.”
Other schools sent over bagels and donuts and sandwiches and water. The community responded with discounts at various local restaurants to support the teachers and workers. Partners included Pizza Hut, Soul of China, Grill on Main, NitroInfusions, Jimmy Johns, and Starbucks. Donations came from Pepsi and New Leaf Catering and the Zwemmer Realty Group. The teacher-workers and their helpers were nurtured and fed.
Come Thursday evening we just about ready and Madison-at-Adams opened its doors for tours for students and parents. One of the concerns of parents living in Indio was how to get their students to a school in La Quinta. The district created a new bus route that would take all students from Madison to their new school at Adams. A treat for many of the children who had never ridden a school bus. Information was sent to parents and the offer was made for them to take the bus with their children on Friday and come to tour the new Madison-at-Adams school. It was a day of celebration and reunification as students found their classrooms and their teachers.
Come Monday morning, many teachers parked at the “old” Madison to ride the bus with their students to the “new” Madison. Parents followed the busses and took photos as their kids walked by and on to the playgrounds. Friends found their friends and it seemed like Madison-at-Adams had always existed. But the teachers and their helpers knew…it was an experience to remember as the Madison family and the DSUSD family wrote the new book on how to move a school.
- Welcome collage: DSUSD
- Superintendent Baialey greets children: DSUSD
- Time to Eat: DSUSD
- Welcome sign: DSUSD