Once upon a time, the children of Elm Grove Elementary would have to walk through the gymnasium and outside to get to the “learning cottages” that housed the music classes.

Once upon a time, the children of Elm Grove Elementary would have to walk through the gymnasium and outside to get to the “learning cottages” that housed the music classes.

The school was that overcrowded.

There was also the issue of the main office. Visitors would have to walk almost halfway across the school to reach it, walking past the gymnasium and one hallway before they got there. The security, said Principal Pam Fore, was a nightmare.

But all of that has now changed.

“We now have a really nice set up here at Elm Grove,” she said of the recent completed renovations. “We love it. Parents now feel like their kids are safe. The reactions have been very positive.”

The last of the projects funded by a $17 million bond issue from 2006 have been completed. The bond issue largely funded the construction of the district’s fifth elementary school, Indian Trails as well as safety and security upgrades districtwide. Indian Trails opened to students in August.

But another large component of the bond issue was renovations to the remaining four elementary schools. The goal of the renovations as well as with the opening of Indian Trails was to address overcrowding and to improve security in all of the buildings.

Front offices at all four of the elementary facilities – Elm Grove, Blue Hills, Cler-Mont and Buckner, were changed to create a more secured building. Vestibules were constructed that force visitors through the main office. The rest of the building is secured because the interior doors remain locked.

“Our goal was to enhance the safety in all of our buildings,” said John Ruddy, assistant superintendent of support services. “We tried to relocate all of the offices to the primary entrance. This way, we can know exactly who is coming in and out of our school, but also still give families a community feeling in the schools.”

The Elm Grove front office was relocated to space the teacher’s work room once occupied. The former Elm Grove office was turned into the new teacher workroom, which includes a lounge area and conference room.

Fore said all of the renovations have been a huge benefit to the students and staff at Elm Grove. With the opening of Indian Trails, Elm Grove also lost about 135 students, greatly reducing the number of students in the once overcrowded  school. Fewer students means that the mobile unit has also been removed.

“What we have done is created capacity for future growth,” she said. “We miss the families and students we once had, but in exchange we have received students from other schools that we have welcomed with open arms. It has all been very positive.”

Another school to see significant changes is Cler-Mont Elementary. The old library was converted to the new administrative/counseling suite while four classrooms were taken to create a new library.

“We were able to take the four classrooms with the reduction of student population caused by the opening of Indian Trails,” Ruddy said. “It is really nice and beautiful. The kids love it.”

Student services at Blue Hills were relocated to one central location near a renovated entrance. Because of the increased office space, the library was also reconfigured, allowing for more conference space and a larger library office.

At Buckner Elementary, a two-classroom addition has been completed and like the other elementary schools, minor renovations were made to secure the front office.

“When Dr. Ewing convened the Vision 2020 team, the number issue was safety and security,” said Stephanie Smith, public relations director for the Fort Osage School District. “That was the issue that clearly rose to the top and that has been our focus here.”