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Mercersburg Elementary School renovation impresses students and teachers

August 27, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Second-graders Cole Smith, left, and Skylar Pittman draw self-portraits Monday in the new art room at Mercersburg (Pa.) Elementary School on the first day of school.
By Roxann Miller, Staff Writer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — The newly renovated Mercersburg Elementary School earned an A-plus from students, teachers and parents on the first day of school Monday.

“It made the first day way better,” said fifth-grader Syrus Maldonado, whose first word as he entered the building was, “wow!”

The $7 million project upgraded all the mechanical systems at the school, placed the media center/library in the courtyard and revamped the building to accommodate relocating the central office from 118 E. Seminary St. in Mercersburg to the elementary school.

The elementary school, which houses kindergarten through fifth grade, was built in 1980 and hasn’t been upgraded, according to Principal Lura Hanks.

What began in June 2011 as what district Superintendent Rebecca Erb called “a mess,” transformed into a huge success with students and teachers.

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“It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s easy to navigate throughout the halls. Students love it. They all came in very excited today,” Hanks said.

She said the organization of the building makes it easy for children to navigate.

“Kindergarten starts first, then first grade, then second grade, then third — so there’s an order to the classrooms, which makes it easy for the children,” Hanks said.

Previously, the classrooms were not organized by grade level.

The elementary school now has air conditioning and six computers in every classroom, Hanks said.

“This is huge. In this day and age, technology is embedded within the curriculum,” she said. “It’s embedded in the work students do. It’s no longer one hour in a computer lab. It complements every lesson.”

There are a little less than 300 students at the elementary school, and Hanks said class sizes average about 22 to 23.

Justin Hissong, 10, was enjoying the chilly climate inside the school thanks to the new air-conditioning system.

“It is a lot better, bigger and colder,” Justin said.

The fifth-grader was thrilled with the school’s new look.

“I like everything inside and out. It was all ‘constructiony’ before, and now it’s all finished and looks great,” he said.

When fifth-grader Kenlee Hornbaker walked inside the elementary school, she did a double take.

“I wondered what happened to my school,” Kenlee said.

During construction, she said the hallways were dusty, but now everything is clean and shiny.

“I’m really happy. I just like the changes. It’s so beautiful,” Kenlee said.

Her favorite part of the building is the library.

“I like that there are more places where you can read, and there are more computers,” she said.

Art teacher Dawn Beaumont was thrilled with her new art room.

“This is wonderful. There’s a lot of open space and natural light, and the kids are really excited,” Beaumont said.

The new art room is nearly twice the size of the former art room, has a Smart Board, more table space, built-in cabinets and a place to display the children’s artwork.

Erb said the renovations reconfigured things but did not add space to the elementary school.

She said relocating the district office to the school was a positive change.

“We needed more modern, updated facilities, and it will make us more efficient,” Erb said.

She visited all the buildings in the school district and said “everything was quiet” on the first day of school.

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