The multi-year reorganization of Sanford’s schools will be nearly complete when Sanford Pride Elementary School opens its doors to students in grades 1-4 on Monday, August 30. Kindergarteners start September 1.
The building which has been transformed into Pride Elementary over the past year was built as Sanford Junior High School in 1959, and enlarged in 1980. The latest renovations make it more usable for the primary grades, while upgrading major systems and adding the latest technology.
The exterior changes to the building are obvious to any passerby. The new sign has a programmable message board displaying the latest information with eye-catching graphics. The parking area has been completely reconfigured. School buses will drop off and pick up students at the front of the building, while the lower-level parking area on the north side has a separate traffic flow for parents to drop off and pick up their kids. Watch this video to see the drop off and pick up procedure: youtube.com/watch?v=Sks_0urg9mo.
Part of that lower parking area has been fenced off, and will become the third and fourth grade playground. The kindergarten and first grade playground is off the back of the building, away from the hustle and bustle. Second graders may float back and forth between the two areas. Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson said Monday that a delay in the delivery of playground equipment is due to a fire in the production plant where it is being made. Delivery is expected in mid-September. In the meantime, the third and fourth graders will head over to Willard School at recess time, while teachers are developing alternative play options for the younger kids.
The new front entrance leads in to a security vestibule where visitors as well as staff and students will be buzzed in to enter the building. Once inside, a screen by the main office will display announcements, and feature walls offer space for welcoming décor. A built-in bench offers a place to sit while waiting.
All-new chairs and desks will greet students in their classrooms. Each room has its own Promethean board as well. If you haven’t seen them yet in the other schools, this is not your grandma’s chalkboard. It’s a huge, fully interactive screen that offers 20 points of touch and four pens to accommodate multiple users doing different activities at the same time. Joan Wright, Technology Director for the District, said the Promethean boards at Pride are even better than the ones at Sanford High School, because they are a newer version with even more functionality.
Another big improvement in the renovated building is the expanded School Nurse’s office, which includes a more spacious treatment room and a separate room for storage and other functions.
The kitchen and cafeteria have been upgraded with new lighting, paint and a new stage curtain. To brighten the space even more, the area where a fish tank was once located is now windows. Desks have been brought over from the Willard School to allow for social distancing while students eat lunch. Two nearby classrooms are being set aside in case they are needed for extra cafeteria space.
Color coded walls give a visual identity to the different grades. In the second-grade area, some temporary walls have been replaced with permanent ones. The old lockers have been replaced with new wooden cubbies. New rubber flooring in the stairwells has raised circles to keep little feet from slipping.
In the lower level, the gym also has brand new flooring, with the Spartan logo and shuffleboard courts integrated. The third and fourth grades are in the space where SRTC was originally located. There are plans to get the old greenhouse up and running again.
Perhaps the biggest change to the building is the remodeling of the locker rooms and storage area off the gym into dedicated art and music spaces. The art room has three sinks and its own Promethean board on wheels. All the bathrooms in the building have been upgraded as well.
When we visited on Monday, staff and teachers were busy getting their spaces set up for the start of school. They were hampered in their efforts when a power changeover last week resulted in no power to the building for three days, but Mr. Nelson expects no problem in opening the school on time. Training on the new technology is ongoing.
The Learning Commons (that’s the school library to we old folks) may take a few weeks to get up to full functionality, as many boxes of books were still waiting to be unpacked and shelved.
Pride Elementary will open with grades K-4, but plans for the future include bringing Pre-K students in as well. With the reorganization thus complete, students at each of Sanford’s three elementary schools will have a more stable educational experience, with the first six years of their schooling all in one building.