More than 30 staff members took part in a workshop at Heritage Elementary last week to share their thoughts about renovation options that have been presented for the school.
Options ranged from renovating the existing building to constructing an entirely new facility.
Several teachers at the Feb. 13 workshop voiced support for a new elementary school, arguing that the footprint of the existing building was inadequate for a modern-day learning environment.
“This facility is an elementary school,” one said. “And the way it’s currently pieced together is obviously not conducive for elementary kids. It was never designed to be for elementary kids. So anything that doesn’t alter the footprint of the building isn’t really helping our problem any.”
The instructors cited issues with overcrowded classrooms, narrow hallways, lack of accessibility, and the need for better lighting and more collaborative spaces throughout the school.
They said a new facility would solve such problems and allow for greater parity in the district.
“A huge focus in our district is equity,” one teacher said. “And looking at the different options, and looking at equity among the elementary schools, it seems that (a new building) would provide Heritage an equitable space…so we would be similar to the other elementary schools.”
Members of the school’s custodial staff agreed with the instructors, arguing that renovation alone would not resolve the issues that have plagued the facility for years.
“All we’re doing is putting lipstick on a pig,” said head custodian John Gillis. “That’s what we did last time. And now everybody’s complaining and saying we didn’t really make any improvement. Why would we even consider that to be an option?”
EUA’s senior design architect, Chris Michaud explained that all options needed to be considered.
“When we go about doing these different types of scenarios,” Michaud said, “we want to understand the polarities. We want to know every single potential option and what that’s going to cost because the (school) board needs the information in order to make those decisions.”
Superintendent Randy Guttenberg echoed the architect’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of vetting out all options for a potential referendum.
“You stand up in front of the community and present one option,” Guttenberg said. “And it’s very frequent in those meetings for a community member to ask, ‘Have you considered blank?’ And we need to be able to answer, ‘Yes, and here’s why we didn’t go there.’”
Teachers noted that the existing floor plans have created a prolonged transition time for students, which can range from six to eight minutes depending on the class size.
Those transitions cut into classroom-instruction time, they argued.
“Instructional minutes are lost every day when transitioning,” one instructor said. “And the fast rotations that we’re trying to do aren’t always realistic. It’s a long walk for kids to do… It’s 15-20 minutes, every single day, that is lost.”
Guttenberg said he would relate the staff’s feedback to the board to help narrow down pathways.
“We’re trying to build a few different options in how we can address our needs as a district,” Guttenberg said, “then solicit some feedback from the community to inform our next decisions.”
Residents should expect a community survey in the spring, asking for further feedback.