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School becomes one big construction zone

An $8.5 million renovation project is keeping teachers and students on the move at Williamsport Elementary School.

An $8.5 million renovation project is keeping teachers and students on the move at Williamsport Elementary School.

September 30, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

It's always moving day at Williamsport Elementary School.

Whether it's the teacher who has stacks of moving boxes by her classroom door or the construction worker moving a ladder for a line of kindergarten students to pass by, the school is bustling with activity that won't stop until renovations are completed by August.

The 42-year-old elementary school is undergoing an $8.5 million renovation that will result in more rooms and better facilities for its 522 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

"They're a little ahead of schedule," said Principal Carolyn Moore, who said dry weather has allowed construction to continue virtually undeterred.

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Additions include some new desks and equipment; four new kindergarten classrooms and one pre-kindergarten class; new playground equipment; a new art room, music room and stage; a gymnasium; and a cafeteria.

The rest of the building is a construction zone of stripped hallways that branch into new wings and old classrooms. The old classrooms in the original 40,500-square-foot building are either empty and in their earliest stages of renovation or without tile flooring, ceiling panels or paint in preparation for additional remodeling.

This past summer, all teachers packed up their classrooms so tile flooring and asbestos could be removed. Many teachers are still shifting classrooms while waiting for their permanent classrooms to be finished.

"I tried to do it with as little moves as possible," Moore said.

Most teachers seem to be adjusting.

First-grade teacher Deborah Semler will move into her permanent first-grade classroom from a portable classroom in mid-October, when a wing of eight rooms is scheduled to be completed.

Her portable classroom, along with two others, will be removed once the school is completed.

She said she tells students, "We're going to have an adventure and we're going to move into a new room."

Some teachers don't look at moving the same way Semler does.

"It's not the ideal situation, but we're making it work," third-grade teacher Robin Bates said.

Bates is one of three teachers who will have to move her class twice during the renovation. She said parents have been a big help with moving.

She has cardboard moving boxes labeled and lined up by her classroom's front door. Bates said she'd rather have everything put away, but realizes the chance for that will come soon enough.

Across the hall from Bates in the old library, librarian Brenda Schaefer said the move to a new library/media center excites her and the students.

Schaefer and Bates are closest to the construction of the biggest project now - the new library/media center - and occasionally the sound of hammering or cutting can be heard through their classroom walls.

"Most often the children are so busy with schoolwork they don't seem to mind it," Bates said.

On the opposite side of the school, in a newly added pre-kindergarten classroom, teacher Stacie Hood said she likes her new room.

"Before, the floors were ripped up and it was a lot duller," she said. "It's a lot brighter and cheerful now."

Hood said she's happiest about the accommodations made for her extra-small students. Lower cubbyholes, a private bathroom and fewer hiding spots for the children make teaching easier for her.

"There's not a point in the day when I can't see all 20 kids," she said.

Across the hall, a fourth-grade class temporarily occupies a future kindergarten class. The students there tower over the cubbyholes that were lowered for the fourth-graders' smaller counterparts.

"At this age, they're just happy to be in a new room," said fourth-grade teacher Tara Ellis, who also occupies a kindergarten room.

Once the library, reception area and classrooms are completed, the courtyard is renovated with an outdoor classroom and a butterfly garden and central air-conditioning are installed, the school can return to normal.

Right now, the construction crew tries to make it easier on the teachers and students by doing bigger and noisier jobs before and after school. In the new cafeteria, partitions were installed before lunchtime to avoid moving the heavy dividers around the children.

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