Students who attended Jefferson Elementary School last school year are in for a pleasant surprise Wednesday when they arrive for classes on the first day of school for Ardmore City Schools.
“It looks like a brand new building, when you are inside. It was a full remodel with new paint, new carpet, new doors,” Superintendent Sonny Bates says of the school for first through fifth graders. “It is a whole new school. It seems like the only thing that stayed the same was the bricks.”
“We took a school building from the 1980s and brought it into modern times,” says Chris Kennedy, director of operations. “There is a new fire alarm, new sprinkler system, new wires. It is up to code, that’s a big plus for the campus.”
Throughout the summer, Jefferson Elementary School has seen its share of workers make their way through the building to renovate the existing school as well as complete a classroom addition to the campus. Ground for the new addition was turned in December, and once teachers and student left for summer break, crews began the task of completing the remodel with a deadline as the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Bates and Kennedy report the remodel will be completed for the start of school, with the classroom addition expected to conclude in October with the school transitioning to the new classrooms after fall break, which is Oct. 16-17 for the district.
“We want to have a good transition and give teachers and students ample time to get into the new classrooms,” Kennedy says.
Ardmore’s Jefferson Elementary School was the second school building to reap the rewards of the passage of a $31 million bond by voters in May 2013. In the spring, the roof replacement was completed at Ardmore Middle School, the first bond project to begin among the district’s school facilities. The project called for the replacement of a 17-year-old roof.
The $31 million bond includes $23.87 million to be spent on facility improvements and new construction among the district’s high school, middle school and all four elementary schools.
The Jefferson project called for a remodel of the existing school building, which opened in 1989 after a fire destroyed the original structure. In addition to a building remodel, seven new classrooms were to be built in a wing attached to the school building. The new classrooms will allow for the school to house a music room and remove classes from being taught in portable classrooms. The entire Jefferson project cost the district just under $3.5 million.
The new classroom additions add 4,828 square feet to the building as well as another rest room area to the school. The addition was built with safe rooms to protect students and staff in the event of severe weather. Of the seven new classrooms, two are double in size from a typical classroom and will be used for art and music.
Bates says the designated art and music room were identified as major needs for the school. Music classes have previously been taught on the stage in the cafetorium or in a classroom vacant for a period. Additionally, the district’s curriculum committee has pushed for a stronger fine arts component across the district.
“The space allows us to do those things,” says Bates, who mentioned he would like to see a strings program begin. “There is space for storage of instruments, and the possibilities are there for the school to expand the fine arts.”
The school is designated as a High Progress Rewards School by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Bates says that recognition came after the implementation of an arts program with the support of the Goddard Center and past artist-in-residence Pauline Bustamante. With students being introduced to and learning the arts, the district noticed an increased interests in student’s developing their artistic talent as well as academic improvements in the classroom.
As Jefferson students notice construction crews wrapping it up on their campus, Lincoln Elementary School students will see the opposite this fall. As the next school tabbed for the beginning of a bond project, district leaders broke ground for the building of the new Lincoln school building in May. Since then, construction crews have concentrated on the building pad and plumbing for the new two-story building. The new Lincoln Elementary School is expected to cost just under $12 million. At Lincoln, students and parents should expect to see a fencing system in place when school starts. The fence will keep students away and back from the construction site as well as serve as a way to safely guide students to the bus area and parent pick-up area.
On the east side of the building, there is a grassy area designated for recess time. Teachers have planned games and activities for students to play in the area, as the playground has been taken down as construction crews work in the area.
Students and parents may notice that on the northwest side of the school, one classroom and a hallway leading to the playground are no more. The removal marked the first step in taking down the school, which was built in 1928.
The school is scheduled to be complete during the summer of 2015.
Kennedy advises parents to be careful when driving to Lincoln to drop off and pick up children from school. The district will monitor traffic patterns the first week, and may make adjustments to bus schedules to help alleviate traffic in the area.
At Jefferson, Kennedy says they don’t expect any traffic issues except for parents driving slower to check out the school’s new look.
Bates says next summer will mark the beginning of the track resurfacing project at Noble Stadium, and the next school building site to see bond projects begin will be Charles Evans Elementary School.