MOSCOW — Students returning to Moscow Charter School for its first day of school Monday will be greeted with a new, 7,000-square-foot school building that houses four spacious classrooms for middle school students.

The new facility replaces a temporary classroom building that was roughly the size and shape of a shipping container and a residential house that was converted into classroom space. The new building is a square, high-ceilinged structure covered in corrugated metal siding with pale green and wood grain accents, located on the site where the house once stood.

School administrator Tony Bonuccelli said the portable classroom has been towed away, and a former parking lot between the new building and its existing facilities has been converted into a playground. Bonuccelli said the new structure includes dedicated rooms for Spanish and English language arts, art and life skills classes and a room for math and robotics.

“Our really, really exciting room is the science lab,” he said. “That actually has a garage door in the back of it, so they can open up the garage door and go outside and do experiments easily.”

Bonuccelli said the completion of the new building is a milestone for him. Finishing the structure has been a goal since he started with the school eight years ago. With the new facility complete, he joked he has vowed to forgo any further construction projects for at least a year.

Science and social studies teacher Paul Collins said he started with the charter school the same year Bonuccelli was hired, and he too feels a sense of arrival now that the middle school classrooms are complete. He said the facilities give him “the space and ability to let the students’ work really shine.”

“I’m not a lecture-type teacher, and so having this space allows me to focus on the kids and their learning process,” Collins said. “Rather than me just delivering, I become the facilitator, not the manager.”

Bonuccelli said the new space will also be useful for adhering to health and safety guidelines meant to limit the spread of COVID-19. He said each room is outfitted with a Smartboard — which he described as a whiteboard-sized, touchscreen tablet mounted on a wall — as well as swivel-mounted cameras capable of tracking the lecturers’ movements and ample space for in-person students to practice social distancing.

Bonuccelli said the charter school will follow the Moscow School District’s lead and start the year in a hybrid model of instruction, where students will attend class in person two days a week and receive instruction online for the other three days. Some students will begin the year attending classes fully online, he said, but will be able to return to in-person instruction at any time.

In-person students will be required to wear masks, the school will limit class sizes to 11 children at a time and they will enter classrooms through exterior doors rather than through a common entrance.

He said he’s been pleased so far with infection trends in Latah County but urged the community to continue washing hands, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

English teacher Macy Swift said the new classrooms came just in time.

“We’re just really excited for the new building, and the hybrid learning, I think, will go well in here because we have the room to spread out and we have the technology to do it live,” Swift said. “Monday morning, even if they’re at home, they’re going to be live and we can see them, the class can see them — we’ve been telling them to get dressed at least from (the waist) up.”

Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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