Out with the old and in with the new.
Students and staff at two elementary schools in Seymour Community School Corp. are enjoying new and like-new facilities with the near completion of $3 million in construction and interior renovation projects.
Cortland Elementary has a brand new media center, along with new water fountains and restrooms.
At 6,509 square feet, the media center features high ceilings, bright, cheery lime-green painted walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, LED lighting and special features, such as a reading room, a conference room for staff meetings and training and small group rooms for individualized instruction and tutoring.
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The hallways and main entrance of the school also have received updates with new tile flooring, and the walls have been painted a light blue, making for a more modern and welcoming environment, school officials said.
Cortland Principal Lori Lister said the new media center allows for an improved space for students to utilize during library time, which takes place twice a week for each class.
Cortland is home to about 130 students and is the district’s smallest elementary school.
The new media center incorporates books and improved technology for students. It also gives teachers more space for staff development meetings and training activities and a better venue to bring in guest readers and presenters, Lister said.
One of her favorite features is the reading room.
“The riser seating provides a place to have readalouds or presenters, and all students are able to see,” she said.
The school’s old library was an open-concept design, meaning it was open to the hallways creating distractions when people walked by. It also was a potential safety issue in the event of an intruder in the building.
The bigger media center also will serve as a place to have activities and meetings after school, Lister added.
The former library has been converted into individualized instructional rooms and a hallway connecting the two wings of the building.
In all, the project had a price tag of nearly $2 million, which the school funded through a bond issue approved by the school board in 2014. Those bonds will be paid off by the end of 2017.
Lister said the investment was worth it.
“This provides a better space for students to learn outside of their classroom,” she said.
Fifth-grade teacher Wayne Woodard said the addition is a major asset to the school and Cortland community.
“It’s a beautiful addition while also not being overdone,” he said. “The lighting is very reader friendly.”
He said students are most impressed with how much bigger it is than the old library.
“Kids can spread out more, and it will be used for indoor recess and when kids are waiting for buses,” he said.
Fifth-graders Delaney Thomasma, Tori Fee and Claire Marshall are impressed by the new media center.
“I love the room with the steps and how big it is,” Delaney said of the reading room.
“It’s really cool, and I love the new seating and cushions,” Tori said.
For Claire, there is a much more practical reason she likes the new space.
“You no longer have some books that are out of reach,” she said. “The new shelves are all lower to the ground.”
At Margaret R. Brown Elementary, $1 million in renovations have included the complete remodeling of interior spaces to make the building more efficient and to better handle the school’s continued growth.
Brown Principal Tony Hack said the updates provide the quality of environment students need for learning.
“There was no additional square footage added in this project, yet countless spaces were created to meet the needs of students in today’s school environment,” Hack said.
The renovations were focused on the original building, erected 41 years ago in 1975.
Similar to Cortland, Brown had an open-concept library, which was enclosed as part of the renovation project to make the space more functioning and increase safe zones for potential severe weather and intruder situations, Hack said.
New spaces created as a result of the project include six small group work rooms to support individualized instruction, a teacher work area with staff restrooms, a conference room and new rooms for special education, art, English Language Learners and the school’s social worker.
Also, the number of water fountains in the building has been doubled.
The interior renovations are the second phase of work after four new kindergarten classrooms were added in the summer of 2015.
Brown’s enrollment is around 540 students.
“Brown has been growing since I arrived here six years ago, and the work that has been done both last summer with our addition and this summer with the renovations have been in response not only to that growth, but to the quality of environment we want for our SCSC students to learn in,” Hack said.
T&G Construction of Bedford handled both Brown projects and the work at Cortland.
Nancy Franke, school board trustee, said she was pleased with how both projects turned out and how the board and administrators worked together to meet the schools’ needs.
“With the continued growth in our schools across the board, we were able to develop a vision plan which addressed the increasing numbers and the need for developing more sound educational environments for our students,” Franke said.
“These schools are woven into the fabric of our community, and the investment speaks volumes as to how important our children are,” she said.