Franklin Elementary principal Rhonda Dunham was gracious enough to give Southeast Missourian photographer Adam Vogler and I a personal tour of the new $10 million, state-of-the-art school Tuesday morning. Lucky us.
Also, lucky teachers and students, according to Dunham.
I think Adam agreed.
About 15 minutes into the tour, he said that seeing the way schools are built these days makes him realize how "crappy" his were (don't worry Southeast Missouri, he's not from these here parts).
Franklin staff are "crazy" about the new two-story brick elementary building, Dunham said, which is nearly complete and will be ready for students the first day of school, Aug. 16. The old school, which sits just east, is in the process of being demolished.
The new Franklin, which I have dubbed "Franklin II," for distinguishing purposes, has large windows that look out over the "Sunset" area of town, nestled just south of Capaha Park and Southeast Hospital. A few elements present in Franklin II may stir some memories for those with a connection to the school. A familiar copula rests atop the roof, paying homage to the original, and the stone piece bearing the school's name which once hung over the door at the old Franklin is incorporated into the library. But the rest is as modern as can be.
Here's what we saw on our tour. Many of you may soon see it too, as plans to hold public tours, open houses for students and families and a ribbon cutting ceremony are in the works.
The main entrance is positioned near the east end of the building and nearby are offices, and to Dunham's delight, a conference room, which the school staff has never had before. She said," it's the little, simple things that I am most excited about."
A turn to the right on the first floor takes you to stairs that lead to the second floor or the cafeteria and gym. The gym was not newly built, because was fairly new anyway and attached to the old school. A double-sided stage connects the gym and cafeteria.
A turn to the left takes you by the library. The area was bustling Tuesday as volunteers from Teen Challenge helped move in and assemble furniture. Dunham described them as " a Godsend."
The modernity of the school really hits when the library becomes visible--cut out drop down portions of the ceiling Dunham calls "clouds" hold lights and the sprinkler system.
Across the hall are classrooms for preschool--which Franklin will begin for the first time this school year, and for kindergarten. There is also a large art room with a new kiln. Down the hall a bit more are where "hubs" start to appear.
These hubs are a design element Dunham said will enhance teachers' ability to work with students individually or in small groups, and a place students can work with tutors in the volunteer-run Read to Succeed program, also coming to Franklin this fall. The classrooms for each grade are grouped and anchored in the center by a small area with storage for teachers and space for tables and chairs. Space for such activity was very limited in the old school. Franklin II was designed accordingly.
First graders will also have rooms on the first floor.
Upstairs will hold second, third and fourth grades, and there are enough classrooms to hold fifth graders in the case the district ever decides to shift some from Central Middle School. For the time being, the fifth grade rooms will be used as a clothes closet for dress code appropriate clothing should students need it, Read to Succeed and a teacher workroom. The music room is also located on the second floor, as are a room for communication arts study and space for the school's special education services. Two alcoves hold bleacher-style seating in the hallway upstairs, which can also be used for one-on-one help for students, or, Dunham said, inside activities during recess on a rainy day.
Even numbered grades' classrooms are located on the north side of the building, and odds are on the south.
Each classroom has a special type of smartboard for instructional use, called a Promethean board, which allows for students to conduct up to four different activities simultaneously. Technology use in classrooms will greatly increase in Franklin II, Dunham said, and will enhance instruction. We did, however, briefly discuss how sad it makes us that students will no longer have a memory of clapping erasers outside as a reward from a teacher. That chalk dust probably wasn't good for us, anyway.
The halls of the new school are lined with white lockers. Other elementary schools in the district are without lockers, but students at Franklin are used to using them--they have been for years, since the student population used to go beyond the elementary level.
Colors abound in Franklin II's interior. See Adam's photos in this gallery:
Some outside work is not yet completed. An area near the school entrance waits for a garden--Dunham is hopeful about finding community volunteers for planting and maintenance--and the school's playground can't be installed until demolition of the old school is complete. Oct. 15 is the estimated completion date for the playground, which will sit in the area where the old school is located.
Franklin II is the largest-scale and costliest project in the district's many improvement projects paid for by the bond issue voters approved in 2010.
A new library at Cape Central Junior High School and a 22-classroom addition at Cape Central High School will also open this fall.