BLOOMINGTON - Second-grader Mia Poncio moved her blue, multicolored arm cast left and her school materials right, then left and back again.

After three more moves, she found the perfect position to glue her worksheet into her composition book.

"It's hard to move the cast," Mia, 7, said, squirming between the bleachers. "It's not bad."

From across the gym, Mia said she could see all her second-grade friends - the best part about her new classroom in the Bloomington school district's Federal Emergency Management Agency dome.

Mia was among 55 second-graders seated in the bleachers Monday as Bloomington school district began its second week of classes.

After Mia finished gluing down "The Ant and the Grasshopper," she showed her work to teacher Donna Morales.

On a normal day, Morales would teach reading and social studies, she said.

The 24-year teacher came from the Victoria school district looking for a change, Morales said.

"I got the biggest change ever," Morales said. She said teaching in the makeshift classroom would be part of her scrapbook at the end of the year.

Students were allowed to sit comfortably so they could stretch their legs or lie on their stomachs while using the bench as a desk, she said.

Limited outlets made integrating technology into class work difficult.

"It's old-school teaching," she said.

To make up for the limited space in the facility, teachers keep additional supplies in their vehicles.

"We carry everything with us," Morales said. "It's about being creative, thinking outside of the box."

School officials recognized the second-graders could fit into the bleacher space, said Principal Louise Torres.

Fifth grade is divided into two classroom areas in the locker rooms with two teachers.

The learning environment was made as normal as possible, said Stella Gurau, fifth-grade teacher.

Plants, lamps, posters and charts added comfort to the temporary classroom, said Gurau, a 15-year educator.

This is her fourth year teaching in the Bloomington district.

Normally, fifth-grade teachers are departmentalized by subject and students switch classes, she said. With the transition, two teachers rotate between subjects in the same room.

An advantage of teaching in the same room is being able to assist the other teacher during a lesson, Gurau said.

Fourth-graders, shared between four teachers, are learning in the dome's locker room on the other side of the gym, Torres said.

School officials and teachers discussed the learning arrangement, she said.

"Each teacher let us know what they were comfortable with," Torres said. "If we're not using it for kids, it's being used for storage."

Educators brought teaching necessities to fill their spaces in the dome. About half the school's supplies stayed on the main campus.

"As long as it's not wet, it's good," she said. "We had no room to house it."

The other half of the locker room is used for third grade, which is also shared between four teachers.

Life skills conducts classes in the concession stand area.

Schedule changes had to be made to account for the district's other campuses, Torres said.

Athletics takes place twice in the gym during the school day, she said. During that time, the second-graders have physical education outside.

Lunch is cooked off-site and transferred to the school, where the cafeteria staff prepares a disbursement station. Students are allowed to eat in the basketball court area or their temporary classroom area.

Officials considered bringing in desks, but because they would need to be moved for volleyball games and athletics, they decided against the idea, she said.

Torres was a teacher at F.W. Gross Elementary School during the 1998 flood, she said. This is the first time she has been in a situation with classrooms and children displaced.

Attendance has been steady at 90 percent, she said.

When the school's media center, or library, becomes available, the second- and fourth-grade classes will transition into the area.

Third grade will then be divided up so some classes can use the bleacher area, she said.

Despite the change, educators said they will focus on teaching.

As long as Morales has books, pencils and paper, she said, she will teach and her students will learn.

"After teaching for so long, you know how to adjust," she said. "Learning can take place anywhere."

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Education reporter

Gabriella Canales graduated from the University of Houston-Victoria with a B.A. in English in 2016. Feel free to contact her with ideas because she is eager to tell stories.

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