COLUMBIA – While it may take a few weeks for them to acclimate to the new facilities, students and staff transferring from Field Elementary to the new Alpha Hart Lewis school in January have new technology and more room to look forward to.
The Columbia School Board toured the new elementary school, near the intersection of Brown Station and Waco roads, Monday.
The school's main office and library — or media center — are directly accessible upon entering the building through a set of glass doors and windows. No books fill the library's shelves yet, though.
Just past the initial set of doors is a glass atrium revealing the playground and recess area behind the school. Columbia Schools Assistant Superintendent Jack Jensen said that the structure of the school is designed to keep the activity elements of the school separate from the academic ones.
Display windows allow observers to view a gymnasium with high, vaulted ceilings from above. The gym is complete with a sound system and divider wall for the stage area, which is directly connected with the cafeteria. On the opposite side of the hallway lies the new school's music room.
Beyond the display windows is a set of stairs leading to the lower level of the school. On the tour, Jensen led the board through a number of “pod” areas. Each pod is designated an animal and color scheme in addition to a grade level. For example, the fifth-grade pod is the “honey bee” pod with an orange color scheme.
“The pods are a place for collaboration within the grade level as well as between grades,” Dan Boatman, principal, said.
Each of the pods has a teacher workroom and bathroom area. Additionally, many of the classrooms have doors linking one room to the next — allowing teachers to work together more easily.
Another stairwell leads from the fifth-grade pod back up and into the kindergarten pod. The classrooms there are larger than on the lower level and include a bathroom area complete with pint-size toilets. Jensen said larger classroom space was one of the top priorities for teachers.
The media center rounded out the tour.
“It is very flexible in its design,” Jensen said. “It has the ability to house two classes at the same time.”
Jensen also said that with the location at the front of the school, the community could use the media center in the evening without opening the entire school.
Field students will visit Alpha Hart Lewis on Wednesday and Thursday, Boatman said.
The school was named after Alpha Hart Lewis, an educator born in Boone County in 1894. In addition to her years teaching, she was the first — and only — woman to hold the position of county superintendent of schools. She served two terms.
Students transferring from Field Elementary will begin school on Jan. 4, 2010, along with faculty and staff. The gifted program previously located at 916-918 Bernadette Drive will move to the Field building. Additionally, more classrooms for early childhood education will be available at Field.
Construction began on Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary in March 2008 after the district approved a $15.6 million construction bid from Professional Contractors and Engineers Inc.
In choosing the name Alpha Hart Lewis, the school expects to set an example of selflessness, courage, dedication and high ideals, according to the Web site set up by the district.