Summer construction at schools has staff scrambling to prepare for students’ return
SUMMIT COUNTY – For teachers, the first day of school often takes weeks of preparation. But at Dillon Valley and Breckenridge elementary schools, preparing for the students’ return has been a little more chaotic than usual.
Both schools underwent some surgery this summer, replacing mechanical and ventilation systems. While those repairs will not be noticeable to the students, it’s made the staff’s to-do list that much longer.
When school ended last year, the teachers had to pack up their books, furniture and supplies and put them in storage so construction crews could work freely during the repairs.
Dillon Valley Elementary principal Gayle Jones said the staff there filled the gymnasium almost floor to ceiling with boxes. Neither school was reopened for staff until this week, and classes begin Tuesday.
Teachers often begin planning their classes several weeks before school starts. Some even come in for a short period each week throughout the summer.
Now, in addition to planning their classes, teachers must unpack supplies and re-create their classrooms, and a normally three-week process must be crammed into a little more than a week.
On Thursday, neither school looked ready for students. Boxes were still piled high in some classrooms, other furniture lined the hallways, and at Breckenridge Elementary, teachers were still awaiting desks.
The school’s desks are scheduled to arrive Saturday, but school officials seem uncertain they will. They have created a backup plan to use old desks from Dillon Valley Elementary, should the shipment not arrive in time for Tuesday’s classes.
“It’s been pretty chaotic, just because we don’t have our desks,” said Breckenridge first-grade teacher Kathy Davis. “I think it’s more the unknown. We have a lot of new teachers, so I’m sure it made them uncomfortable.”
Sarah Akerson is one of those new teachers. But the Breckenridge kindergarten teacher has a good outlook.
“I’m a new teacher, so I’m panicked, but I don’t have an experience to compare it to,” she said.
Though her classroom looked like there was little left to prepare, Akerson said she still has much to do. She plans to have everything unpacked by the end of the weekend and will spend Labor Day working on her lesson plans.
“I’m not ready, but I’m getting closer every hour,” she said.
Across the hall, in Wendy Blasingame’s kindergarten classroom, there were more boxes yet to be unpacked.
“The way I look at it is I had a really good summer … so now I’m having to put in a whole lot of work,” she said. “I just have to keep that attitude. Otherwise, I’d go a little crazy.”
Blasingame said she’s having difficulty setting up her classroom without the desks, although she’s not worried should the desks not arrive by Tuesday.
“That part doesn’t affect me because we’re on the floor a lot, so we can make do,” she said.
More worrisome are the necessary supplies – like her calendar – which Blasingame still has not found among the boxes of supplies.
Taking it in stride
Teachers and staff over at Dillon Elementary School were just as busy Thursday.
Principal Jones seemed confident the classrooms will be ready for students by Tuesday, and teachers seemed to be taking the added responsibilities in stride.
“It’s fun,” said Dillon Valley first-grade teacher Debbie Griffith, who has had the assistance of a new intern to help her unpack. “It’s like moving into a new house. It’s a lot of work and a lot of confusion, but it’s kind of like Christmas with all the new stuff.”
Dillon Valley fourth-grade teacher Britt Swanson is still waiting for new carpet in her classroom but wasn’t too worried.
“It’s been fine, actually,” she said. “The start of every school year is crazy, so it doesn’t make any difference.”
Swanson was excited about the school’s new ventilation system, as the old one “sounded like tin cans.” She said she’s looking forward to the quiet.
Quiet is a subjective term, in this case, since construction crews were busy working outside Swanson’s classroom window.
Dillon Valley is building an addition to the school, which will not be complete until late October, Jones said. Construction tunnels were built outside two of the school’s classrooms to separate students from the ongoing construction.
Behind the school, more workers were busy installing new playground equipment.
While the staff at Dillon Valley seems excited about new classroom furniture, Jones speculated the kids likely will be more enthusiastic about the playground’s new climbing equipment than they’ll be about their desks.
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