Students will have to attend J.E. Harper Elementary School one more year as construction begins at two schools to alleviate long-standing safety and noise issues.

Principal Janene Ashley says not much will change this school year, adding she and all the faculty are excited about the new construction beginning.

“I encourage my teachers to do their group time on opposite walls so that my teachers can minimize the noise as best we can,” she said.

“We do a lot of technology and ‘whole brain’ teaching, so the noise level is inevitable with kindergarten and first grade. We’re just trying to do our best until we can get doors and walls, and we’re all excited for what’s coming.”

Safety has been a large concern for parents and faculty as these smaller children navigate a building meant for older children.

Ashley says the kindergarten students have been moved to the front of the building to make it easier for them to exit the building in cases of emergency.

“Stairs were a big concern of ours,” she said. “At the beginning of the year, we will do safety lessons on holding onto the handrail, those types of safety things. We’ll do lessons on all areas of the campus, but we will focus on the stairs and staying in their area.”
First graders have been moved to the back of the building, and then they have some kindergartners downstairs so they only have to exit through the back, she said.

There will be no changes in the bus and parent pickup areas. About five years ago, she says the busses were moved to the front of the building and parent pickup to the back to allow more room for the car pickup line. The back of the school offers a circular drive that allows for a smoother traffic flow, she said.

“It gives more room for the cars to come onto campus and not be on Germantown Road,” she said. “At the beginning of the year, a lot of parents want to bring their kids for the first few days or so. I always encourage parents to be patient, because there may be longer lines at the beginning of school.”

Harper is also transfer point, which means students that don’t attend Harper will either walk home or get onto another bus to either go to school or come home. Ashley says a duty teacher is watching these students as they transfer busses or begin to walk home.

“We don’t have many students that are shuttled here, but they will get onto their busses in the mornings,” she said.

In a buildings and maintenance committee meeting July 11, Architect Perry Watson, with Yeager, Watson and Associates, gave a timeline of what will take place as construction begins. Bids will be opened at 2 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 25, and the following Monday, Aug. 29, a special meeting will be held to award the contract.

According to the timeline, Watson hopes to begin construction after Labor Day.

Plans are to construct a wing at Phillips to serve as the kindergarten building. Watson says he tried to take everyone’s concerns and incorporate that into the plans of both the wing at Phillips and the one at Webster Junior High School.

In the kindergarten building, each classroom will be age appropriate and equipped with a restroom. Inside the main building, air conditioning installation is currently underway in the gymnasium.

When renovations took place roughly five years ago, Watson says there was not adequate restroom space in that per building code, the school did not have enough toilets per student ratio.

As renovations begin inside the building, that concern will be addressed. The plans call for a central restroom area as well as a restroom in each classroom. Also, the special education classroom will be enlarged and have a spacious restroom with a changing area to accommodate special needs children.

At WJHS, more bleachers will be installed in the gymnasium to accommodate the roughly 200 sixth grade students moving from Phillips. The wing to be added will include 11 new classrooms with adequate computer hookups for computer lab and testing. The building will also have restrooms and a teacher’s lounge.

The plans also call for expanding the lunchroom to offer bigger capacity. They will fill in the sunken floor, smoothing it over and expand the lunchroom into the lobby area to create more space.
The target date for completion is July 2017.