Streetsboro -- Under the school district's facilities master plan, Henry Defer Intermediate School will be untouched by construction, but it will house two grades instead of three.
Defer, which was built in 2002, would house fourth- and fifth-grade students if voters approve a combined bond issue and permanent improvement levy, totaling 5.06 mills on the November ballot. The bond would raise $38.7 million and combine with more than $24 million in state funding to complete the district's master school facilities plan, which started around the time Defer was built.
According to the district's September enrollment count, Defer houses 510 students from fourth to sixth grade.
"Moving sixth-graders over to the middle school, is more appropriate for that group of kids," said School Board President Denise Baba, adding the middle school would house grades six through eight under the plan.
Space, said Baba, is the biggest problem at Defer.
"Even with the economic downturn of the past few years, we've continued to see an increase in our student population," she said. "It probably won't be long before we have, on a regular basis, classes of around 200 students."
Henry Defer Intermediate School Principal Bill Basel said he's worked in both old and new buildings in the past. One of the big differences, he said, is air quality.
Having modern heating, venting and air conditioning makes for cleaner, more comfortable air, which improves students' ability to focus on their work and learn, he explained.
Another feature unique to the school is the rest room sinks being visible from the hallway in an alcove area. He said that design helps teachers monitor students during rest room breaks. It's one of the little differences that add up to a better overall learning environment at Defer than at other district buildings, he said.
Having experienced older buildings, Basel said he's also come to appreciate the flooring in Defer's hallways. At older buildings, the floors are either wooden, which are rather high maintenance, or asbestos.
At one building he worked in, he said the school was shut down for several days during the summer each year to strip and wax the wooden hallway floors, which was inconvenient for teachers doing summer work.
At newer buildings, he said spaces are better designed, as well.
"It seems more planned ahead," he said.
Basel said he makes an effort to keep each grade's classrooms in a certain area, but due to crowding that's not always possible.
"Ideally, you'd like all the grade levels in one wing," he said, explaining that having two grades at the building would resolve the quandary.
Inside each classroom, he said there's plenty of storage -- a whole wall of lockers and shelving -- and modern electric wiring. All the wires serving a wall of desktop computers are enclosed rather than exposed as in some of the district's other buildings.
Due to crowding, one closet designed for storage of computers and networking equipment also serves as a tutoring room.
"That's the main housing for mobile [computer] labs," said Basel.
The music room, which per state standards has to be 1,200 square feet, compared with 900 square feet for a regular classroom, was well-designed for its purpose, said Basel.
"The music room's got carpet," he said. "It cuts down on a lot of the noise and reverberation. They do a lot of different things with acoustics in there. It makes it a really functional music room."
The music room also is rather isolated from regular classrooms, he said, which prevents regular classrooms from hearing music.
He also said storage is well-designed in the music room. At one end is a closet with adjustable shelving, which Basel said makes for easy storage of instruments of different sizes and shapes.
There's also space in the room for a set of risers, for a class set of xylophones to remain out and for an area where students can sit.
Art teacher Samantha Copthorne said she's thankful for all the storage and counter spaces her classroom offers. The counters often serve as areas for projects to dry or be stored.
Basel said the room also includes natural light and track lighting for display of students' work.
"The fact that the room is lit by natural light is fabulous," said Copthorne.
She said she's also happy to have a sink in the room.
"A lot of art rooms don't have sinks, believe it or not," she said.
Baba said the needs of students and teachers have changed over the decades. No longer do students sit in six rows of desks facing the teacher, who lectures for most of the lesson.
"Education is a lot more collaborative today," she said. "We need to adjust our educational spaces and technology to the realities of today. Who would have imagined that nearly everybody would not only have a computer at home but also have hand-held devices more powerful than what our astronauts took into space in the 1960s?"
FB: The Gateway News/Bob Gaetjens