On August 25, 2014, Hanna’s kindergarten through sixth grade students will start the school year in the old elementary building, but a little over a month later on October 6th, they will attend class in the new Hanna elementary school for the first time. The faculty will be able to accomplish this move over a three-day weekend; all the school furniture and most of the technological trappings will be brand new. Jim Piche, building site supervisor for A Pleasant Construction explained that the new elementary school will have “the state of the art learning stuff, the best of the best. There are absolutely no options left out of this school.”
Last May, Piche and Mark Shipp, Hanna Elementary’s principal, led a group of about 75 parents and other interested citizens on a tour of the building site. Piche pointed out that the front entrance to the building was designed to look like the entrance to an underground mine as a tribute to Hanna’s coal mining tradition. However, unlike a mine, this school will be brightly lit with natural light. Piche told the group, “One thing you will notice is that it will all be glass when we are done… The natural daylight of this building is awesome. You don’t need any lights on.” “We actually have skylights cut out in the gym, so the gym is as bright as can be now.”
Despite all the big windows, the building is well insulated and designed to stay at an even temperature with minimal heating and cooling. Classroom temperatures can be individually fine tuned. The building is smaller than the old elementary, consistent with state guidelines for area per student, but the windows and the architectural design allow the interior to seem spacious. Old timey touches of weathered barn wood paneling in the school halls and common rooms and wood from the old gym bleachers used in the gym/cafeteria/stage areas soften but do not mask a distinctly modern glass-and-steel feel. Each grade from kindergarten through sixth has a separate classroom, but the walls between first and second grades, third and fourth grades, and fifth and sixth grades can be retracted to form a larger room to consolidate grades or allow communal activities.
Before the May tour, Mark Shipp HES principal, spoke to the group in the old elementary cafeteria and showed slides of the floor plan and the new school furniture. He cited the “great group of architects that worked with a committee of about twenty of us who represented some of the parents, some of the teaching staff, some other people in the community, the school board and administration as well.” He said that key to the committee’s discussions was “the concept of how to improve teaching.” Shipp explained that children have three kinds of teachers, adults (teachers, parents), their peers, and “then that third teacher is their surroundings.” He said, “All those thoughts went into designing this building and making it the best learning environment we possibly can.” He continued, “You are going to see that the building is about half the space that we have now, but the space is going to be much more efficient and much more flexible. A lot of the space is going to be used for more than one thing.”
Shipp said that the input and needs of the community were also taken into account in the planning for the new school. He said, “We were able to retain the old gym.… It has undergone some remodeling as well. You will see the music room is attached to it and will serve as part of the stage, so we won’t lose a stage altogether, and the multipurpose area can be used as a stage as well.”
The new elementary school has been designed to be used as a community center as well as a cutting edge academic facility. The gymnasium/stage/cafeteria area can be accessed from the side doors and the rest of the school kept locked off if desired. The school will also be designated by Homeland Security as a community shelter in case of a disaster. The building has emergency generators that can run on natural gas or propane.
The plans are to tear down the old elementary school building, and there is sadness in the loss of the big building and the history associated with it, but, given the care and planning that went into the design of the new Hanna elementary school, Hanna seems to have gotten a really good deal.