ELYRIA — Designs for the south side’s Hamilton Elementary School were unveiled at the Elyria Schools Board of Education meeting Wednesday.
Named for founding father and first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and after a previous Elyria school that closed in 1979, the new Hamilton Elementary will be a 58,000-square-foot building for students in preschool through fourth grade.
It will occupy a block bordered by 12th and 13th streets to its north and south, respectively, West Avenue to the west and Middle Avenue to the east. The building is slated to open in fall 2020, at the same time as the new Ely Elementary School and the Northwood Campus, board member Kevin Brubaker said.
Board members were impressed with the artistic rendering of the building.
“What I really like is the architectural aesthetics mirror the first school and the high school very well,” Board President Greg Elek said.
Until 1907, the first Hamilton school was known as the “13th Street Building” or “South School” until the Board of Education decided to name its schools after prominent Americans. Ground for this version of the Hamilton school was broken in June, and residents should expect to see “dirt moving” on the site in March, officials said.
After taking stock of the exterior, Superintendent Ann Schloss provided details on what will happen inside the school. As part of their 21st-century learning environment, students will be placed in “studios” that will provide a more collaborative learning environment for them and teachers alike.
“Students will move around within their studio to work on what best meets their needs,” Schloss said in an interview prior to Wednesday’s meeting. “If you look at classrooms now, if a student needs Title I reading help? They have to walk to a new room.”
In the new school, which will be outfitted with collapsible walls to join classrooms for larger learning spaces, students will remain in their grade level but be able to move around in the “studio” with all their needs in that space, including restrooms.
Gifted, Title I teachers and paraprofessionals all will be in the same studio space, along with what is being called the “extended learning area.”
“That was purposeful on our part to put there, so students can come out and work with students from other classes,” Schloss said. The extended learning area will be similar to the Maker Space rooms currently in Elyria’s middle schools and high school.
“At the Hamilton (extended learning areas), a teacher can do a literary circle, and there are all kinds of different opportunities for technology,” Schloss said. “It’s almost like a little neighborhood where students will be served by many different teachers.”
The extended learning areas also cut out what would have been “thousands of square feet of corridors” in a traditional school setting, she said.
The only other movement needed will be for art, music or physical education classes, to eat or visit the office or health center, Schloss said.
Those spaces will be in the “spine” of the building, which will house spaces more open to the public — such as on Election Day, if the building was to serve as a polling place. When those spaces are in use for something involving the public, the studios can be securely locked to keep the children safe.
Dual playgrounds, one each for kindergarten students and their older peers, also are on the grounds.
“We want to continue to stress that these buildings are also community centers, where people from the community will be volunteering and having meetings in a very safe setting” for them and the students, Schloss said.
More detailed “virtual tours” of the interior spaces and information on safety and security will be released in the future, she said.
Residents of the south side mounted a campaign to retain a “neighborhood” school when they learned the district’s plans for new schools might leave the south side without its own elementary building.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said he was “excited” to see the renderings.
Also in attendance at the meeting was retired Elyria teacher Carol Vondruska, who said she came to ensure the historic Hamilton building was not forgotten when the new one is built.
“I plan to be watching construction and plan to keep bugging you,” she told the board, with a laugh.
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