Changes & Opportunities (and Some Renovation Stuff)

This time of year offers opportunities for both closure and new beginnings as we head into final exams on this last day of classes for first semester courses.

Our final exam schedule and the four-day weekend for students provide a chance to reflect on the semester past while recharging batteries in preparation for a great second half of the school year.

The most substantial new beginning, however, was discussed last Monday at the Act 34 hearing addressing the bond issue for the renovation project.

Renovation

The most sizable portion of this project includes major changes for FHS, but it also includes a new pod for FES and a new roof for FMS. The meeting provided a thorough and transparent explanation of the needs and finances for the project and bond issue, all of which are available on this portion of the district web page, which will also include updated information as the project progresses.

I won’t speak to the specifics of the project financing at this point because those details are accessible in the hearing packet and were extensively covered in the meeting. In short, here is how the renovation meets some of our responsibilities and needs:

1. Safety

Safety is our most important responsibility as a school. Our current building is extremely safe; our new building will be safer.

From entry procedures, to classroom access, to security cameras, to communication options, to security officer location, the renovation improves student and staff safety in a focused learning environment.

2. Educational Environment

Our second essential responsibility is to provide the best education possible for the students and families in our school community. We have provided high-quality education for our students in spite of our current building and its condition.

The following items are some of the more pressing factors influencing our students’ educational environment:

Limited Disruptions: Although not the most expensive of the seven (7) options explored by the school board, the selected plan creates the least disruptive environment for students. While the new academic wing is under construction (18-24 months), classes will continue as normal in the space we currently occupy, and we avoid the need for portable trailer classrooms and closing portions of the building one section at a time over a longer build schedule.

Capacity: We already have teachers sharing classroom space at FHS, and the following images are relatively self-explanatory in terms of noting the need for more space and classes, which the renovation provides:

Erie County Membership Change
During the past three schools, only FSD has increased student membership.
Membership Grade-level Growth
Class sizes have increased across the district, and the current renovation plan meets those current and future needs.

The Structure: Our custodial and facilities staff are second to none and have done an inspired job of creating an exceptional space despite mounting problems (44 of these items are detailed in the Act 34 booklet) and issues in the following areas just to name a few:

  • windows that leak air and moisture
  • continual roof leaks into classrooms, hallways, and locker bays
  • the HVAC system’s inability to manage temperatures throughout the building

These shortcomings are part of day-in and day-out experiences at FHS. In isolation they are manageable, but, over time, they take their quantitative and qualitative toll.

Science Labs: A visit to any FHS science lab would suffice as an explanation to this need; however, if you’ve not been in the building recently, the renovation addresses our limited lab space/resources and includes state-of-the-art shared and flexible labs while also allowing for separate science classroom instructional space.

Classrooms and Common Spaces: Our student-centered approach to instruction will be supported by 21st-century classrooms and access on each floor to smaller common learning spaces similar to the second-floor “zoo.”

This list could go on, but that’s not the purpose of this space. I’ll provide further updates and details in upcoming months.

The building project addresses a need for which the district has been preparing and planning for the better part of a decade. We couldn’t be more excited to embrace this challenge as we embark on a new future for our students.

Until then, best of luck to all students on final exams and have a restful weekend–we’ll all come back ready to create a great second semester experience.

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