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In Colorado Springs,It's Home Sweet School

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School officials in Colorado Springs, Colo., have solved their overcrowding problem--and given new meaning to the word schoolhouse--with the aid of a local land developer.

Since September, 150 pupils in grades K through 3 have been attending classes in five adjacent homes located in a quiet cul-de-sac of a 2,000-acre housing development. The single-family dwellings were specifically designed for school use by the developer.

"Except for the American flag and the signs we put up, they look like any other houses," said Alan Hafer, superintendent of Falcon District 49. Mr. Hafer asked the developer to build the "cottage schools" when a surge in enrollment left the system scrambling for classroom space.

The district had planned to move all of the children out of the homes when construction of a new elementary school was completed. But strong parental support for the home-schools, said Mr. Hafer, has convinced district officials that they ought to consider continuing to use the houses next year for kindergarten and 1st-grade pupils.

The use of houses as makeshift classrooms is not unique to the Falcon district, but persuading a developer to construct such houses to school-site building codes gives the Colorado development a new twist.

The cottage schools come equipped with a special sprinkler system and feature a large main classroom on the first floor and a fenced-in backyard, which serves as an outdoor playground. Those housing the kindergartners and 1st graders also have an open "reading pit" on the lower level.

The district rents the houses for $950 per month from the developer. They can be converted back into normal residences when all of the children are eventually moved to the new school building.

Both the students and their parents and neighbors in the development have supported the Stetson Elementary Cottage Schools, said Mr. Hafer. Initially, parents had opposed use of the single-family buildings, he said, but they now seem convinced that the houses offer a better learning atmosphere for young children.

"I think the problem will be getting the children out of here and into regular schools next year," said the superintendent.--ef

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