Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wichita County Elementary School

If you missed last Sunday's Open House, you missed out on some great beauty! I really wish that all of the naysayers who are against this building and restoration of the former Junior High Building would have come out to see this! I believe that they would have been quite impressed with how far our tax dollars have gone on this major project that I, for one, am totally convinced that we need! The former Junior High building will house the fourth, fifth and sixth grade classrooms. The seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelveth grade students will continue to go to school in the High School Building which was constructed in the 1970s. It is located directly across the street from the other school.

Some of us, including Stan and I, have been very concerned about the street that seperates the two schools. The street will now be converted from a 2-way street to just a 1-way street to aid in the safety of our children. The street to tne south of RBSES is just a 1-way street and it has served the grade school students very well.

For years, various school superintendants have tried to get the new school bond issue passed. All were unsuccessful until Dr. James Hardy came into the picture. Dr. Hardy made it a priority. He went out to people all over Wichita County and asked them how they felt about the prospect of a new grade school. He found a great deal of resistance to this prospect. At the same time, he learned that many of these people did not want the new school just because of the major expense that would be involved.

At that point, he spent M-A-N-Y hours, 7-days-a-week, going through various ideas of how thay could built an extraordinary school but with fewer dollars than had been proposed earlier. He ended up with three different options. He made each of these well-known by having a great amount of meetings that were open to the public so that we could see just what was on the drawing board. Each proposal had a different price tag. The next time that the bond issue was voted on, it passed overwhelmingly. The people had spoken and a very large majority wanted the new building. Of course, there was a good-sized minority that was still totally against the new building. Many of these voters no longer had children who would be attending Wichita County schools. They did not want to have to pay additional taxes to support a school that their families would not be using. Many failed to realize how much a new school would help our county. New people would want to move here of we had top-notch school buildings rather than an elementary school that was in great danger of being closed down permanently which would have meant that our students would have had to be bussed to our nearby counties. The new people would have brought in extra money that would have been used at our local stores which, in turn, would have helped to keep the stores in business.

So, anyway, our family made the tour last Sunday. We were prepared to see great things. Though this is what we had expected, we were still MAJORLY shocked at what we actually saw!

We toured the former old school first. Wow!!! What a difference! These rooms were restored to such beauty as what they probably looked like when the school was brand new only much upgrading had entered into the mix. The architects had included a great deal of storage that had not been there before. Each room received the following:

1. New flooring
2. Taller and more beautiful windows and window sills
3. New Walls
4. Electic wiring
5. Computer wiring
6. Air Conditioning and Heating

The end result? Much more safety and energy savings. Our children will be much more comfortable than they were at this school or the former RBSES. They will also be able to be tuned into the much needed computers. These rooms are BEAUTIFUL!

In 1927 when this school was built, an entrance to the south was put in. In past years, it never received much interest. It will now! It contains a composite picture of the class of 1927, the first class to graduate from this building, and pictures of the building as it was being built. To remind us of the original building, one of its original radiators, speakers, etc has been put into place. Dr. Hardy's wife, Jo, has put in a great deal of work decorating this work of art. Go through it sometime. It is a work of art.

The current gym which was built in the 1950's, the kitchen and former vocational-agricultural building were updated to match the rest of the building by having their brick stained to match the 1927 building. Though these rooms were attached to the older building, they did not receive the same color of brick. Their brick was ORANGE. The architects put great work into finding the color formula for the older brick. Once they had it, a man was employed to stain the orange brick the same color as the older building's brick. The result? Uniformity and beauty.

Speaking of color, As soon as our family walked in through the Eastern entrance, I was totally impressed by the color of paint that we found on the northern wall. Most old schools and many new schools incorporated white paint throughout the buildings. Through recent years, it has been scientifically proven that color actually makes great differences in our learning abilities and mood differences and control. As we toured the old and the new buildings, the same color and a great shade of cream continuously popped up. As a major fan of color, I was immediately impressed. I talked to Mr. Keith Higgens, the current principal of WCJ/SHS and the soon-to-be superintendant of Wichita County Schools about this. I asked him who had come up with the color selections. I found out that the the Elementary School Principal, Dawn Haverfield-McKinney, and the architects were the ones who chose them. They did an exceptional job of this!

The gym that was built in the 1950s received new and very necessary upgrades in 2009. It probably looks better today than it ever did.

The former lunchroom is currently being transformed into a gorgeous library. You may wonder what happened to the former library that was located upstairs. It was divided up and is now being used to add more classroom storage and to provide a great new science lab.

As you remember, a dome was built that now contains a large room that is used as the new lunchroom/physical education gymnasium and 2 restrooms. The lunchroom will be used now to feed all of Wichita County's students. Early on when Dr. Hardy was determing just how he could cut back on expenses, he realized that having the gymnasium built large enough and with bleachers built, was going to cost MUCH more money than it would if it was just constructed for students to use it for physical education. The people voted in favor of NO public basketball games there, therefore no bleachers needed to be built. We still have the High School gym as well as the former Junior High gym to handle the varsity and junior varsity games. Stan and I are major fans of only having two gymnasiums for basketball games that are open to the public.

We were shocked at how you never know that you are leaving the old school and entering the new school and visa versa. The transition is flawless. The older building will house the kindergarten, first grade and second grade classrooms, restrooms, teachers' workroom and teachers' restroom. All are just GORGEOUS! It was interesting how each classroom was has its own personality. Early on, citizens of Wichita County were concerned of the fact that no windows were being put into the new classrooms. Believe me, you don't miss them! Each classroom has 2 full glass doors to the outside. A great amount of light is filtered into each room. Two doors were built in the classrooms for easy and quick exiting from the room. And again, much storage was built into each room. Teachers are going to love that!

An elevator is currently under construction that will allow adults as well as children with injured legs, etc to travel from one level to the next.

The former Vocational/Agricultural Building is now used for the the third grade classrooms and the new offices. Again, beautiful.

Many of the students who toured the building and their teachers can hardly wait for the 2011-2012 school year to begin! LOL! My mother, Donna Lou (Pepper) Elder, is a school teacher in Leoti and has been since the late 1950s. She is so impressed with the new building that she has decided to not retire this year. She is looking forward to teaching in the new school!

Some work continues on the school building including the very old red tiled floor in the former junior high building. Once all of the furniture, boxes, etc are moved into the building this week, people will go to work on the old floor. It will be stripped and re-done so that its formal glory reappears. I know that it will be stunning!

Volunteers are asked to join Wichita County teachers and employees as they move everything from the Robert Bruce Stewart Elementary School into the new building on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I am only sad about one thing. That is the fact that Dr. Stewart's name will not be a part of the new building. It is very understandable though considering the fact that he was never a part of the new building. I am sure that he would be quite happy with the fact that our new school will be known as the Wichita County Elementary School.

Many, M--A--N--Y thanks go out to Dr. Hardy, the Wichita County School Board and the voters of Wichita County who voted in favor of all of this for making these dreams become a fantastic reality!!!


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