By B. Adam Burke
SOLON– Lakeview Elementary Principal Jodi Rickels is on a first-name basis with her construction team.
During a recent tour of the school’s expansion and renovation, she called out, “Hey Mike!” or “Hi Kevin!” in the hallways in the same voice she used when greeting a second-grader by name in the media center.
She’s getting pretty used to the workers, dust, the noise and punch lists, but looks forward to the day when all the changes will make her building into a school again.
The district paid $3.3 million last year for some updates; some went to upgrades for the middle school, but the bulk of the money was set aside for Lakeview’s overhaul. The school’s bond for the project will be paid in 2017.
A year after breaking ground in the back of the school where a new parking lot for staff and bus drop-off area will be moving, the lighted art displays in the media center are not quite ready, some classroom cabinets are not yet installed and some furniture and fixtures are still covered with plastic and unassembled. Work remains to be finished, but progress is evident.
New windows have been installed; the whole building has air-conditioning now instead of just isolated sections; some pre-existing rooms are getting sinks and cabinetry; and the elementary offices have been occupied, including Principal Rickels’ new digs at the relocated southeast entrance to the school. Her staff’s offices have been upgraded and the front door will eventually be a more secure entry with all visitors entering through the office.
Lakeview’s expansion also includes new music and art rooms, more preschool rooms and will bring all the second-graders out of temporary buildings and back into the school. A brick courtyard between a new addition and the older building sections is a true centerpiece and will give teachers and students the chance to work outside, albeit in a contained and comfortable area.
The school has been modified several times since its original design in 1968. Lakeview has been engulfed in the project for 12 months. Before school opened this year on Aug. 1, Principal Rickels and staff faced a mountain of classroom books and school supplies stacked in the media center. They climbed the mountain and keep coming back for more.
Although the new media center’s bookshelves are in and the paint job makes it feel conducive to learning, one end of the room was just drywalled and a few makeshift staff offices with cubicle walls remain.
The new media center, which originally had an open-walled classroom design surrounding the library space, is a brightly-colored reading oasis with learning-themed banners decorating the ceiling and comfy new furniture arranged just so for student reading times, partly finished and very promising.
Lakeview staff will continue to shuffle classes around as new construction and installation progresses, but Rickels said, “The construction doesn’t interrupt our day. We just carry on.”
Sinks and cabinets were installed in some bustling third-grade classes recently, but complaints have been at a minimum.
Rickels said the builders, the Burlington company First Construction Group, have been coming in on Saturdays and during early dismissal hours to do some of the loud work and she and the staff were grateful for their cooperation and recognition of the school’s need to keep kids focused on learning.
As work in classrooms is completed, Rickels described a “domino effect” that hinges on the new part of the building where teachers will move into permanent classes and out of temporary spaces. The student shuffle will dance around a new art room with a kiln, conference and associates’ rooms, a Title I office, reading resource offices and eight new classrooms in the new, west-side addition.
Right now, the hustle is on for finishing the perimeter fencing of the school along the road and back entrance. Outdoor work is a “balancing act of seeing what we can get done” before any hard freezes, Rickels noted.
She is optimistic that all construction work will be done by sometime in January.
“Teachers have been very, very patient,” she observed.
And amid all the cabinet installations, paint and drywall, Solon kids just keep learning and growing, doing their own work to make the school a better place.
The 2011-12 kindergarten class was the largest in recent history with 110 new students entering school this year. Class sizes have hovered around 90 for several years.
A video about the media center progress can be viewed online at scsdmediaservicesmakingconnections.blogspot.com.