Science building open house offered Saturday

Students are eager to help move into the new science building and have been getting a sneak peak at the facility. The general public can check it out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. School board president Dan Willis compares the building process to a marathon, and the finish line is in sight.



September 30, 2021 - 10:31 AM

USD 257 Board of Education member Jennifer Taylor takes a look at the cooking and nutrition classroom at the new science and technology building. Teachers and students are moving into the facility this week, with an open house set for Saturday. Classses begin at the building on Monday. Photo by Vickie Moss

Sophomores Jesse James Throckmorton and Dalton Coffield were eager to help.

“Do you need us to carry boxes?” they asked teachers.

That was just an excuse, a way to get in the doors of the science and technology building for a sneak peak before Saturday’s open house and before classes begin on Monday.

Dalton Coffield, left, and Jesse James Throckmorton said they offered to help carry boxes just so they could check out the new science and technology building. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

When they walked into the new building, immediately the high ceiling of the huge commons area held them in awe. 

Wood panels and lights floated beneath the black metal ceiling and exposed ductwork, a trendy combination of industrial and modern. It’s called a cloud ceiling. It also saves on costs and is efficient. 

The boys wandered to the back of the building, where they found four science rooms. 

They’re most excited about the chemistry and physics classrooms. In the near-identical neighboring rooms, twin brothers David Daugharthy will teach chemistry and Dana will teach physics. Between the two is a large storage room filled with chemicals. 

In the chemistry room, a compression chamber will allow for “better experiments, more fun experiments,” Coffield noted.

“They can get a little stinky sometimes,” Throckmorton added. The chamber will prevent that.

USD 257 officials and others tour the commons area at the new science center. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register
USD 257 Superintendent Stacey Fager, from left, board members Nancy Toland and Dan Willis, and SJCF architect Allison Le tour the commons area at the new science center. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

The boys’ enthusiastic reception to the new building is something Principal Scott Carson has heard again and again since students and teachers began moving into the building on Monday. 

“They’ve been saying it is so nice. They’ve been so excited and that’s been neat to see.” 

He heard one student say “I can’t believe we have this in Iola.”

He hopes that will inspire them to work harder and take more of an interest in their education.

“The excitement to be in school for the kids, and knowing the community has done this for us, I think all of that will play a factor,” Carson said.

A small number of board members got their first look at the new building with a tour on Tuesday. They were led by Board Chairman Dan Willis, Superintendent Stacey Fager, construction leader Leslie Hitchcock with project manager Coonrod & Associates, and SJCF Architecture’s Stacy Christie and Allison Le, architect for the science building and elementary school now under construction.

Dan Willis and Jennifer Taylor check out the security windows as part of the storm shelter that doubles as science classrooms.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

AN OPEN house for the new science and technology building is planned from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The public will get its first look at the building, which was approved by voters in 2019 as part of a $35 million bond issue.

Construction has taken more than a year. Although things started smoothly, the project was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Material and labor shortages delayed the project, which initially was projected to be handed over to the district in the early summer. Instead, classes won’t begin until Oct. 3.

And even then, several projects will remain unfinished. 

A storage room between earth science and biology classrooms is filled with interesting objects.Photo by Vickie Moss

Nothing will interfere with the learning process, Willis and Carson assured board members. But it could sometimes be inconvenient. 

For example, the kitchen likely won’t be able to serve food for the first few days or so. That’s because kitchen counters and a double-stack oven won’t arrive until sometime in October.

For now, food will continue to be prepared at the old building next door. Students will then walk to the new building to eat. 

They probably won’t mind the inconvenience, Carson noted, as they’ll be excited to eat in the new commons area. 

Students are especially excited to sit at wall-to-wall shelves along the huge windows, and around couches and tables.

Those couches, though, might look attractive but they will need to be replaced. Several were damaged in shipping, and replacements are on the way. 

Board members Jennifer Taylor and Nancy Toland check out the new kitchen.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

That was frustrating, Willis said. 

“Everything was on back-order,” he said about much of the material and supplies. “And then we finally get it, and it’s damaged.”

Several other items have yet to arrive, such as roll-up doors between the robotics classroom and the commons area. Those doors are expected in late October. 

TURNS out, one person’s mistake is another’s benefit.

Architects and the board initially wanted a high-quality vinyl flooring that was durable, long-lasting and attractive.

To trim costs, they chose to go with a different type of vinyl. As it was being installed, the vinyl started to peel. The manufacturer recalled the defective product. It was replaced, at no additional cost, with a higher-quality product — the exact flooring the board wanted to begin with.

“Hope you like it,” Willis noted. “You’ll be seeing this same floor throughout the elementary building.”

Board president Dan Willis checks out the Family and Consumer Sciences classroom dedicated to clothing and sewing projects.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

WILLIS pointed out several aspects of the building that he’s excited about. 

Tile on the walls of the commons area, for example, was an upgrade worth the investment. The tile is attractive, durable and easy to clean. And it feels oddly soothing to simply rub your hands over the smooth surface.

The new family and consumer science classrooms are spacious, with plenty of room to work.

The cooking and nutrition classroom features six cooking stations, rather than five at the old building, with state-of-the-art equipment.

Some features aren’t quite as noticeable.

The section that includes four science classrooms and two bathrooms also doubles as a storm shelter. The doors and windows can be securely locked. 

The roof features new technology with a type of vinyl coating expected to last decades longer than traditional material. It’s actually a pitched room, higher in the center with industry-recommended declines. But the way the structure is built, you don’t see the pitch, Willis noted. 

“Some people in the community are concerned about a flat roof. It’s not a flat roof,” he said.

Outdoors, landscaping remains unfinished. Deep concrete steps will be added to a steep incline, offering students a place to sit and hang out.

Willis plans to ask the board to spend a little extra on patio furniture, as the building’s construction costs came in on budget with about $5,000 left. 

Along with teachers and students, Willis is excited about the building.

As he led the tour and explained various aspects, he grinned from ear to ear. His voice rose with the enthusiasm of a child.

“It feels like we’ve been running a marathon, and the finish line is in sight.”



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