There is now enough room in Roni Rohr’s art class for all her kids to hula hoop.
Which is what her fifth-graders did a few minutes after they walked into their brand-new classroom at El Dorado Community School a few minutes past noon Wednesday.
The walk-in closet in her new room is about half the size of the portable class Rohr had been teaching art in for the past four years. “I’m jazzed,” she said of her new room, which includes spacious wall storage space, an art sink and a separate closet full of recycled art supplies.
She didn’t have all of those recycled pieces, be they feathers or buttons, before she moved into her new class on Monday and Tuesday: “I found so many things. I actually gained [items]. I’m a huge recyclable person, so anybody who got rid of stuff during the move? — My gain.”
Her fifth-graders all pretty much used the same word to describe their new digs: “Awesome.”
They weren’t alone in sharing that reaction. You could feel an energetic buzz among the roughly 600 students in the K-8 as they moved through the newly painted hallways from one class to another Wednesday.
The El Dorado students didn’t have to go to school Monday or Tuesday this week as staff members took those two days to move into their new rooms, following about a year’s worth of construction on site. Though construction will continue through summer’s end, the 45 new classrooms and offices, including a science check-out lab, new computer labs and a teachers lounge, were ready to go for the teachers by Monday.
The construction also included a new gymnasium and a new second floor with upstairs wings of classes for the fifth- through eighth-graders. By August, the school will have a new cafeteria in a new building behind the main building, and the current cafeteria (in the small gym) will be remodeled into a combination music/band room.
El Dorado is just one of several capital-improvement projects funded by a $160 million general-obligation bond approved by voters in 2009. Gonzales Community School’s staff and students moved back into their remodeled digs last week, for instance.
El Dorado Principal Anne Darnton was unpacking boxes and moving items around her newly furnished office Wednesday. The kids, she said, were excited to discover three sets of stairs in the newly constructed facility.
“The teachers got to see their new rooms last week,” she said. “Almost everyone has been teaching in portables at one time or another, so they were pretty excited.”
Darnton said there are still about 15 portables on campus, although none are in use. She hopes the district will remove them before semester’s end. The playground will undergo a remodel during the summer too, she said.
Only the school’s kindergartners did not move into new classes — their classes, which were renovated a year ago, line the hallway with both the administrative office and the library.
Although Darnton’s office is ready, the school’s administrative assistants, currently sitting in a lone portable in front of the school, have to wait another week or so before the new main entrance, including their office, is finished by the construction crew.
Board member Glenn Wikle, whose District 2 includes El Dorado, stopped by the school for a visit Wednesday morning. He said the transformation was “amazing — it’s like a whole different school. And everything works!”
Prior to construction, the school building totaled about 65,776 square feet prior. Now it totals about 96,100.
“No wonder the custodial staff feel like they have a lot more to clean,” Darnton said.