River Birch Elementary: Founded 2010
In a farm field located in the northwest corner of Avon, Indiana, ground was broken in July 2008 for Avon Community School Corporation’s newest elementary school-River Birch Elementary. After a detailed demographic study which was conducted in 2007 by Avon Community Schools, it was determined that this site would best serve future educational needs of our learning community. Patterned after our Avon sister school, River Birch Elementary borrowed the same architectural footprint as Cedar Elementary which opened in Avon in 2006. By utilizing the same architectural designs and layouts as Cedar Elementary, Avon Community Schools were able to reduce construction startup costs while simultaneously improving the educational capabilities of the River Birch by making a few minor structural adjustments.
Shortly after the construction of River Birch began, a community stakeholder committee was formed to study the redistricting plan for Avon Community Schools. With the opening of River Birch, it was hoped that the size of other Avon elementary schools could be reduced, equal access to resources be maintained while impacting the redistricting demands of the fewest number of students and families. The redistricting committee which consisted of parents, teachers, students and Avon Community School administrators worked diligently throughout the 2008-2009 school year. Numerous community meetings were held to glean participant feedback and suggestions. Detailed transportation studies were conducted by the committee. Early in January 2009, the redistricting committee was able to present to the Avon Community School Board three possible redistricting scenarios. After taking final public comment, the Board made a final vote and the current Avon Community School Corporation School district boundaries were drawn.
As a result of these decisions and boundary guidelines, it was determined that the student population of River Birch Elementary would draw children from the far north, north central, and western areas of the corporation. River Birch’s sister schools White Oak Elementary and Sycamore Elementary would reduce the size of their school populations by sending nearly half of their students to River Birch. It was determined that River Birch would open its doors at near student capacity of 750. Opening day enrollment was documented at 736 students.
In May of 2009, Dr. Michael Whitman was named founding principal of River Birch Elementary. Dr. Whitman previously served as the principal of White Oak Elementary. His appointment to this position served to keep continuity with students and parents who might transition from White Oak to River Birch. On January 1, 2010, Dr. Whitman assumed his new role as the principal of River Birch Elementary and began immediate involvement of the structural, material, personnel, and student needs of this new learning community.
In the winter of 2010, Avon Community School Corporation put into place a plan to staff and transition teachers and support faculty to River Birch Elementary. Certified teachers were given an opportunity for preferred 2010 school year teaching placement. As the result of this process, nearly 92% of all Avon Community School teachers received their first and primary choice for teaching assignments for 2010. Thirty-six certified teachers from five Avon Community Schools were assigned to River Birch for its opening staff. Eleven instructional assistants also complimented the certified staff to comprise the founding faculty of River Birch Elementary.
2010 brought major financial support reductions for all Indiana schools and Avon was not immune to these budget reductions. As a result, custodial, secretarial, cafeteria, and instructional assistant supports were reduced by approximately 40% across the corporation. Today, River Birch Elementary is attempting to adapt to these financial challenges while remaining dynamic to the needs of our student. Not an easy challenge, but nonetheless a challenge which we embrace with professional can-do attitude!
River Birch Elementary opened its doors for leading and learning in August of 2010. Prior to the first day of school on August 18th, a series of public tours and informational sessions were offered. Nearly 1200 individuals toured the building prior to the opening of school. On August 10, 2010 River Birch Elementary was officially dedicated. This ceremony hosted nearly 1000 community members. The dedication focused on the child-centered nature of the school and learning community with the participation of over 50 River Birch children.
As the first quarter of leading and learning comes to a close, we are pleased to report the emergence of a vibrant educational community called River Birch Elementary. Faculty and staff are learning to be highly effective with our students. Growing pains are not uncommon and River Birch has had a few of our own. Dealing with the vastness of the school, the size of the student population and class sizes, the infusion of technology, and new systems have been our biggest challenge. We are making process and daily we learn to streamline and accommodate our practices to enhance the learning of children. We embrace future challenges and successes and we look forward to being named Avon Community Schools’ next Four Star School.