IHS shuffles, rebuilds rooms for former Bowlus classes


Local News

September 19, 2018 - 11:37 AM

Like any move, shifting art, choir and drama classes from the Bowlus Fine Arts Center to Iola High School came with challenges.
Some were logistical: Where do you find space for the new classrooms?
Others were physical: What changes need to be made?
And there were future challenges: How do you adapt?
School administrators and maintenance crews solved most of those problems over the summer, just in time for classes to start in mid-August. Now that students and staff have had a month or so to get comfortable, they’re figuring out how things work and how to better use the space they have.
“It’s no different than moving into a house. You set up your rooms and your furniture a certain way, then you settle in and find out maybe you want it a little different,” IHS principal Scott Crenshaw said.
The decision to move three teachers and associated classrooms to Iola High School came in April, when the USD 257 Board of Education decided it would be more efficient to have the students and staff at the main campus. The move was expected to result in improved safety and less educational time lost because of students traveling back and forth to the Bowlus, and teachers would benefit from increased “peer-to-peer” interaction.
As soon as the decision was made, administrators sat down with blueprints of the high school building to figure where to put the new classrooms. They started with a list of priorities for the classes, determining their greatest needs. The art classroom needed the most space. The strings and choir classroom needed soundproof rooms, or at least a place far enough away from other classrooms that sound wouldn’t matter. Speech and drama classrooms needed private practice rooms.
They also had other classes to consider. For example, a new robotics class was added, requiring a large, smooth tile floor on which the robots could move.
“It was like a chess game, figuring out how to make it work,” Crenshaw said of finding new spaces.
With an enviable 1,800 square feet, the Workplace Studies classroom on the high school’s third floor was sacrificed for Amy Shannon’s art classroom.
The Workplace, which produces custom-designed printing for the school, is now in a second-floor room.
“At the top of the list for me was creating an environment where the students feel welcome and feel important,” Shannon said. “And I wanted a space for storage. And light and functionability.”
A new storage room, shelves and desks were built for the art room. Plumbing also was installed to provide necessary sinks.
An unused classroom needed significant remodeling before it could become Regina Chriestenson’s new speech, drama and forensics classroom. Carpet was replaced and the room was painted. Chriestenson wanted individual practice rooms for students, so three small rooms were built at the back end of the classroom. A separate room down the hall was converted for storage for theater production props, with new shelves and racks to hang costumes.
The hiring of new English teachers this year made it possible to shift an English classroom with minimal disruption. It meant two of three English teachers would finally be on the same floor, rather than one on each of the three floors.
A first-floor former English room, sort of tucked away in a corner and with an adjoining conference room, became the choir and strings room. Teacher Elizabeth Cunningham picked it because it was similar to the layout of her former Bowlus classroom. The former conference room can be used as a practice room and for storage.
The audio and video production classroom moved so that its space could be converted for robotics. Carpet was replaced with tile so the floor could be marked with tape for robotics training courses.
Maintenance crews had about 90 days over summer break to make it all happen, in addition to their regular summer chores to get the buildings ready for a new school year. They had to bust through a floor to install plumbing for the art room; replace carpets; build cabinets, desks, storage rooms and practice rooms; arrange electrical outlets to match the needs of computers, printers and other electronics; and more.
The maintenance crew works on special projects every summer, but this was one of the biggest assignments in recent years.
“I give so much credit to maintenance director Scott Stanley and his crew. It actually was amazing what they were able to accomplish in that short of time frame,” Crenshaw said. “It had to be functional to meet the needs of the students. As time goes on, the instructors will find things they want to change.”
Shannon said she’s already making note of potential improvements for the art room. The layout of desks isn’t as functional as she thought it would be and she’ll need more tables or desks for students to set up still-life displays to sketch, for example.
Shannon said she likes having her classes in the main building. “I like being in the hallway and seeing the kids throughout the day. That’s a big advantage for the students, to have that kind of accessibility.”


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