School awaits finish of fix up

September 27, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

HAGERSTOWN - As principal of Salem Avenue Elementary School, Ellen Hayes said she has duties that go beyond the norm: "I am in charge of instruction, destruction and construction."

Welcome to what Hayes calls "Salem Avenue's Great Adventure," a construction project with an estimated price tag of about $13 million.

When completed in September 2005, the 52-year-old school will have had 24,920 square feet of additions and 46,529 square feet of renovations, said Washington County Public Schools Facilities Director Rodney Turnbough.


When finished, the school will have a new gym, a new cafeteria and eight new classrooms, among other improvements. The school also will have air conditioning for the first time.

In the interim, though, the construction has caused many changes at the school, which has an enrollment of about 370 students.

Eight teachers had to vacate their classrooms and move elsewhere at the school, while the room that will ultimately be the gymnasium now houses four fourth-grade classes, separated by partitions.

Due to the construction, Hayes currently has her office in a portable classroom. That is an improvement over last year, when she shared an office with the school nurse, she said. Or as Hayes puts it, "I lived in a closet for one year."

Hayes said she knew when she came to the school three years ago that the construction sometimes would be noisy and dirty, but that the school would be a great facility when completed.

"I enjoy challenges," she said. "I am excited to do this. Every day is different and the school is being built around us."

Consider Alice Harr, the library media specialist, who has moved three times in the last three years.

Rather than being frustrated, Harr said she has looked at it as a growing experience and has enjoyed seeing how the situation brings out the best in the employees, who work together to deal with any problems that arise. It also helps that the new library will be at least three times bigger than the old one, she said.

The students, who in addition to seeing and hearing unusual noises, are alternating this fall between indoor and outdoor recess. But one student, Isiah Lewis, 8, said he did not mind missing some outdoor recess, since it is hot outside.

Christy Sears teaches third grade in a room that eventually will be used as the school stage. A partition between her room in the adjacent school cafeteria doesn't block all the noise.

When it gets too hard for the students to hear, Sears uses a microphone to speak to the class and after awhile, they don't notice the noise as much, she said.

"This year is an adventure. We talk about it all the time," Sears said last week.

She asks the students to focus on the end result, which will be, she said with students speaking in unison, "paradise."

The parents, students and school staff have been wonderful throughout the experience, Hayes said.

The Herald-Mail Articles