Howbert, Jackson happy to move into their additions

       The additions at Howbert and Jackson schools were finished this week except for some punch-list items, with furniture and teachers' equipment set to be moved into the new rooms Jan. 21-22.

First-grade teacher Julie Courtier gathers her students in Howbert Elementary's library/media center. The 2,750-square-foot area is slated for a renovation over winter break in conjunction with the addition work. Also, the computer lab (right) will be be relocated to a room of its own.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The other good news for the two Westside elementaries is that, thanks to the projects coming in well below their respective budgets, extra improvements have been scheduled at both schools over the Dec. 19-Jan. 5 winter break, according to Val Baughman, the School District 11 manager for both projects.
       Howbert will get renovations to its library/media center space, including new carpet and a partial wall to open up space, in conjunction with its computer lab being relocated to a room of its own that was freed up by the addition. Asbestos abatement (in the floor tiles beneath the old carpet, which will be replaced) is also part of the work, Baughman said.
       At Jackson, upgrades to the new building's security system were made possible (and have already been implemented), while over the break the schoolwide intercom system will be modernized.
       “It's going to be a darn tight schedule,” Baughman said of the winter-break work. “But it'll be OK.”
       The Jackson and Howbert additions - each at the northeast end of an existing building with interior access from an existing hallway - were needed to handle the influx of students resulting from District 11 school closures. Jackson has about 75 students from the former Pike Elementary, and Howbert about 40 from the former Whittier. Both used portable classrooms during first semester to help handle the extra kids.

ABOVE: Howbert Elementary grades 1-3 harmonize on "The Magic Song" musical in the Coronado High auditorium Dec. 15, directed by Katherine Kennedy.
BELOW: A song Dec. 16 in the Jackson Elementary fifth-graders' "The Emperor's New Clothes," directed by Erik Miller.
Westside Pioneer photos

In one of the Jackson addition's finished rooms, Rhonda Sobecki, the school's technology teacher, poses with some of the new electronic equipment that will be available to teachers. An overhead projector is in the top of the photo. Not shown is the interactive white board, which has replaced the chalk board.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The district had budgeted Howbert's four-room job at $1.2 million and Jackson's six-room at $1.5 million.
       At Howbert, the bid by building contractor, T.N. Parker (for construction only) was $838,000; at Jackson, Daniel-Barry's construction bid was $1.04 million, Baughman said.
       After the add-on work, the amounts spent at both schools will end up slightly under what was originally budgeted, he said. “When we do additions to facilities, we talk about the school's needs as a whole,” he explained, with the idea that any construction savings can be used to address them.
       Howbert's needs were especially glaring. Located in an open area that doubled as a pass-through, “the library was not very functional,” Baughman said. The 2,750- square-foot area was also the site of one of two school computer labs, neither of which conformed to district standards, he noted (the other lab was housed in what had been half of a teacher's lounge).

Howbert Principal Gail Smartt checks out a contractor's drill with project superintendent Terry Parker of Parker Construction (his brother is Thomas Neil Parker, head of the firm).
Westside Pioneer photo

       Howbert Principal Gail Smartt thinks the innovative efforts of the contractor, T.N. Parker Construction, actually helped keep the costs down. For example, at one time in the planning it had been anticipated that the addition would cut into the slope leading up to the playground and thus force equipment to be relocated. But Parker instead built a retaining wall “so we didn't have to move the playground equipment,” Smartt said.
       An amenity in both additions is the “smart boards” (as they are generically known) - properly called interactive white boards, according to Jackson technology teacher Rhonda Sobecki. Whereas teachers of the past had only their personal acumen to draw on when writing on chalk board, teachers equipped with “interactives” can wield electronically sensitive markers that connect with the room's computer, including access to the Internet or specific curriculum software. In addition, the rooms' overhead projectors can display DVD and VHS visuals, Sobecki explained.

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