Remodeling prepares school for older kids

       Watching the work at his future school begin to unfold, Bijou School Principal Wayne Hutchison was feeling good this week.

Construction workers team up this week to remove an aged steam heater from a classroom in what will become the Bijou School at Whittier. In the wall behind them can be seen brick from the original 1901 Whittier construction that was exposed during demolition work.
Westside Pioneer photo

       “In 20 years in District 11, I've been in scrounge mode,” said Hutchison with a wry grin, “This is the first time I've been turning things away.”
       The remodel by Colarelli Construction (with initial assistance from Baldwin Demolition) is upgrading classroom and office space in preparation for the alternative high school's relocation to the former Whittier Elementary site at 2904 W. Kiowa St. starting with the 2009-10 school year. In addition, the bathrooms and classroom sinks are being changed out as needed for bigger students. The school will be known as “The Bijou School at Whittier.”
       In conjunction with that work, various educational furniture and supplies have been coming to the school, with most of the items being stored in the gym until the rooms are ready, Hutchison said. That's where he's been able to be choosy, as he put it, “exchanging some really, really old furniture pieces for newer ones.”
       The remodel is scheduled for completion by the end of July. The first day of the 2009-10 school year will be Aug. 18. Whittier's students have been reassigned to Howbert or to the new West Elementary.
       Just thinking about the space his school will have puts a smile on Hutchison's face. The old Bijou site - at what was left of the original, century-old Bristol Elementary at 730 N. Walnut St - had 5,558 square feet (4,128 in portables). Whittier, by contrast, has 32,911 square feet, all inside one building. “I go back to the old school now and I don't know how we fit everything in there,” Hutchison said.
       Past visitors to Whittier will note an immediate difference. Although the main office will be in the same area (to the right at the top of the stairs), the principal's office will be moved into neighboring space that had been the teacher's lounge.
       Other major reconstruction will include the creation of a science lab in the basement and a distance-learning facility and library upstairs with more computers than Bijou formerly had.
       Outside, to accommodate vehicles for staff, students and visitors, much of the old playing field will be turned into a parking lot, Hutchison said (although the new playground equipment in front will remain for neighborhood kids to use).

Westside Pioneer article