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From crates to classrooms: Schoolcraft has moved in and out 21 times, but school says it's worth it

The four-day move began Thursday for all the staff at the Schoolcraft Learning Community as two semitrailers filled with school supplies arrived to be unloaded and set up at the French Village at Concordia Language Camp. Working an assembly line system from trailer to pickup are, from left, Joe Weeks, Tracy Schoenfelder, Lisa Robinson and Rita Poulton. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Two semitrailers, a few pickup trucks, one moving vehicle and one big fork lift - the recipe for a successful move-in day at Schoolcraft Learning Community.

Since the school opened 11 years ago, the school has moved in and out of its grounds 21 times. For most of those years, those grounds have been at Lac du Bois, the French Village at the Concordia Language Villages located northeast of Bemidji.

Wearing a shirt with the words, "Do Work," on the front, Schoolcraft Director Scott Anderson stood watching a fork lift about to unload seven large refrigerator-sized crates one at a time from a semi truck. He appeared unfazed by all the move-in hubbub and commotion surrounding him.

"After a number of years we've got it down to a pretty effective system," Anderson said. "We've got a lot of helpers, a few students, past students, parents and staff. It's a fun, team-building activity," he said.

Schoolcraft is a public charter school, authorized by the Minnesota Department of Education, with grades K-9. Charter schools may not purchase buildings with state funds levy taxes for facilities. However, the state provides lease aid to assist schools in the cost of leasing facilities.

Schoolcraft is allowed to use the CLV facilities in the winter, but it must move out each spring before CLV summer camps begin.

In the summers, Anderson said, 15 staff members work out of the school's business office located in the Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship located at 522 America Ave. N.W. But this space is not large enough to house an entire school for three months.

Storing the "school" is done using three methods. Most of the larger school supplies, such as desks, chairs and tables, are stored in two semi trailers and placed at the moving company's site. Other school equipment is stored at a temperature-controlled storage facility in Bemidji. Computers and business office equipment are stored in the summer business office.

Each classroom is given one large crate, stored outside the classroom building, filled with curriculum materials, such as books. There are a total of 14 classroom crates that must be unloaded and loaded each spring and fall.

"You can love it and hate it," teacher Shanna Reiners said of moving. "I like it that you are able to have a fresh start every year. But it's also hard because you don't have a classroom to go to in the summer."

Reiners said having no classroom or school to visit in the summer can make preparing a classroom for the next school year a big challenge.

"People who don't have space at their own home have to put stuff into storage, where you can't get to it," Reiners said. "In the summer you can't create new things. You have no space for it. I've made sacrifices at my own home with storage in my garage and in my basement."

Because Schoolcraft leases space from a facility that uses its buildings for a different purpose in the summer, some school equipment meant to be permanent fixtures in classrooms either can't be used or must be made of temporary, moveable material.

For example, smart boards, which are becoming increasingly popular in schools across the nation, are not used at Schoolcraft because of their complexity, size and electronic attachments needed. Instead, Schoolcraft teachers use thin, flexible whiteboards that are light in weight and can be placed on shelves or easels.

Despite these obstacles, many teachers and staff from Schoolcraft say working at the school is worth it.

Classrooms at Schoolcraft are unique in that most of them are in their own buildings. They are also surrounded by trees and situated near a lake.

"It's probably one of my favorite things about it," Reiners said, also noting the wooded driveway. "It's so beautiful out here. Students have a lot of space to run and play."

Anderson said over the years, teachers and staff have gotten more creative and organized in designing their learning spaces or offices. Some classrooms, for instance, don't use chairs. Instead, students sit on exercise balls, which can deflate when not used, therefore taking up less space. Other classrooms use tables, rather than desks to save room.

As classrooms continue to be moved in today, Anderson said he hopes for good weather.

"This is just the best campus in the whole wide world to have a school," Anderson said.