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Students and staff at Helmwood Heights Elementary School are starting this school year without the familiar sights of construction crews and equipment that were part of the building’s transformation. Aside from minor details, the renovation is complete and students are returning to what looks like a new school.
Bright white tile replaces dark carpet in the hallways. The administrative area is more spacious and there is room devoted to intervention work with students. Once upon a time, Principal Michelle Hart gave up her office to make room for a teacher workroom. The workroom then was also lost to make space for another program. Now, there is room for everything.
“We are pumped,” Hart said, “just to have space again.”
The renovation has been an ongoing project for about a year and a half, and staff and students continually moved around the building as sections were renovated. Classes moved into new rooms or were shifted to mobile units before moving back into the building. Hart and her staff had to contend with another move during each school break.
“Everybody pitched in and did what they had to do,” she said.
Now, everyone will be in one place for the entire year, which has built excitement, she said.
The building also has a new wireless system. All television channels will stream digitally to the classroom Smartboards, and there’s more technology for students to use to create their morning news show, Library Media Specialist Lisa Haycraft said.
“It’s just beautiful,” she said.
Liz Looten is a new first grade teacher but worked as a computer technician at the school last year. The wireless system allows the school to have laptop labs that can be brought into classrooms. Looten also is one of four teachers who received a grant from Lowe’s to decorate and add furnishings to classrooms.
“I think it looks friendlier,” she said.
This was the first school renovation Hart had been through, and she said it was a “tremendous amount of work.”
She worked with crews more than she anticipated because she had to create plans for how to accomplish academics and renovation together.
“I was constantly focused on, ‘OK, what’s next,”’ she said.
Hart said she thinks the new look will have a big impact on the year by making everyone feel positive about the new space. It looks bright and cheerful, she said, and that’s a good environment for learning.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am for this year,” she said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or email@example.com.