A science classroom at the Franklin build site awaits sink installation. Science classes are very equipment-driven, so those teachers will have less classroom movement than some teachers in other subjects. Photo by Anna Maré.

The Franklin community has been through a multitude of changes in the past few years. With the move to Marshall and the impending return to the original campus, students and teachers have experienced a lot of different learning environments. One big change that awaited teachers at the Marshall campus was an increase in classroom sharing among the staff. In the 2015-16 school year, some teachers were required to share classrooms while others weren’t. This year, the decision was made that all the staff would share, although some teachers would have to move around more than others.

There is a common misconception that teachers didn’t have to share classrooms at the old Franklin site. It was not very common, but some individual teachers did. Classroom sharing didn’t become school-wide until Franklin made the transition to the Marshall campus. It was a big adjustment for everyone, and many teachers had concerns about the effect it would have on their      teaching. As the school year went on, teachers began to adapt to the changes, but some still had difficulties sharing spaces.

In May, there was a PPS board meeting in which three Franklin teachers spoke regarding their experiences with classroom sharing. Rhonda Gray, a social studies teacher, noted that her transition from teaching in one classroom to two has damaged relationships with students because of the movement, and said that moving classrooms was not worth its disadvantages.

The teachers were not just at the meeting to explain the downsides to classroom sharing, but also to show that the plans to share rooms at the new Franklin building were not supported by teachers. The new modernized building is being built to facilitate classroom sharing for teachers and students. In addition to their classrooms, teachers will have conference rooms where they can meet with smaller groups of students. Math teacher Shauna Ewing said that these plans simply aren’t enough for her to teach to her full potential. “A room across the hall where I can meet with students is no substitute for a classroom,” she said in the May board meeting. Both Ewing and Mercedes Munoz, another Franklin teacher who spoke at the meeting, explained that the physical appeal and environment of their classrooms suffered due to sharing, and that a conference room would not fix that issue.

Despite the concerns from teachers about the negative impact of sharing classrooms, there really is no alternative, due to the consistent increase in students attending Franklin and the need to decrease class sizes. At this point, classroom sharing is built into the plans for the new building. Principal Juanita Valder said that despite all the concerns about sharing, it was inevitable. Classroom sharing is dependent on the amount of teachers and students at the school, and “Franklin has just exploded in growth, so we’re impacted a lot more,” she said. Valder explained that if we were in the old Franklin building with its previous layout, teachers would have to share due to our larger size. The goal with the new building is to make transitions as seamless as possible and take full advantage of the space we have.

Valder acknowledged that classroom sharing causes stress for some teachers, and she said she plans on sitting down with some of them when creating next year’s master schedule to get input on how to alleviate as many moving issues as possible. “We need to figure out the best way that’s going to meet what teachers need to do the best job they can in supporting and welcoming students into their rooms,” she said.

The new year marks just eight short months until Franklin students return to the new building. Adapting to the new environment may pose some challenges for the community, but there are hopes that the new, modernized building will bring more opportunities for students to make the most of their learning experience.

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