Elementaries if Bond passes

Hays USD 489 releases images of what elementaries could look like if bond passes

Posted Mar 31, 2022 6:01 AM

First of a three-part series examining plans included in Hays USD 489's bond proposal


Hays Post

An artist rendering of what a renovated classroom could look like at the converted Hays Middle School, or Roosevelt or O'Loughlin elementary schools. Image courtesy of DLR Group and Hays USD 489

A current classroom at Wilson Elementary School. The bond issue would increase elementary school classrooms from an average of 732  square feet to 900 square feet. Kindergarten classes would be an average of  1,200 square feet. Photo by Cristina Janney/Hays Post.

Educators at Hays elementary schools are looking forward to a time that education opportunities won't be limited by space.

The district is pursing a $143.5 bond that would include a new high school and renovated spaces for the middle school and elementary schools.

Tracy Archer, Wilson Elementary School second-grade teacher,  said she and other teachers w

ant to incorporate more science- and engineering- based learning into curriculum, but they are confined by space.

"We can't properly group and spread out and allow learning to happen in a discovery and inquiry-based room. It's really having to be scaled down a lot when it shouldn't need to be," she said.

Even reading needs space.

"Reading is not just reading a book," Archer said. "It's reading, writing, speaking and listening, and being able to incorporate all of that in our tiny space [is difficult]."

An artist rendering of collaborative learning area in a new elementary school that would be in the renovated middle school. Image courtesy of DLR Group and Hays USD 489
An artist rendering of collaborative learning area in a new elementary school that would be in the renovated middle school. Image courtesy of DLR Group and Hays USD 489

The current elementary schools have no such collaborative areas as seen in the artist rendering above. These are extra drop-down desks that were added in hallway at Wilson Elementary School. Photo by Cristina Janney/Hays Post

Archer said teachers don't have enough space to gather children in groups or have collaboration with other classes or grade levels.

In addition, high-stakes testing has to be done in the hallways or backs of offices because there isn't enough space in the classrooms to pull students out one-on-one to do that testing, Archer said.

Wilson Elementary School has the smallest square footage for the number  of students — about 390 — of any of the schools in the district. The school, which is built in 1959, is one of two schools that would be closed as an elementary schools if the upcoming Hays USD 489 bond passes on May 10.

Wilson and Lincoln Elementary schools are set to be closed and the current Hays Middle School building would be remodeled into an elementary school. O'Loughlin and Roosevelt elementary schools would be renovated with additional space and repairs to their infrastructure.

The district released artist renderings last week that show what the renovated spaces could look like.

Artist rendering of a proposed elementary media center at the renovated elementary schools. Image courtesy of DLR Group and USD 489.

Most of the classrooms at Wilson are about 700 square feet. The school replaced its old desks with desks that are about one third smaller in surface area in order to give students more space to maneuver in the cramped spaces, Wilson Principal Anita Scheve said.

Laurenda Jacobs, Wilson fourth-grade teacher, said having more space would be very beneficial for when the class does partner work, group work or projects.

"When we have science experiments, we don't have space to properly perform experiments," she said.  "Even doing partner work, they are all over one another and can't even hear each other very well because of all of the noise behind them."

At least one teacher gave up having a desk in her room in lieu of a carpeted area where her students could have circle activities and a half circle table where students could be pulled out for small group work.

Storage space is also at a premium. In the 1959 section of the building, the hallways are too narrow for lockers. Backpacks and coats are crammed onto hooks on a small space on the wall.

Wilson, O'Loughlin, and Roosevelt have combined gyms, cafeterias and auditoriums, which means all classes have to be scheduled around lunch and gym. Photo by Cristina Janney/Hays Post

Books are stored on carts in the hall. The school can't have any permanent objects like desks in its hallways in case of a fire. The school has installed desks that can be dropped down in case of emergency.

Most of the closets in the building have been converted to tiny offices or classroom spaces.

Wilson's media center was part of a later addition. The addition included a reading theater. However, that area is being used for storage except for a tiny corner that has been sectioned off to use as a reading instruction area.

Wilson, Roosevelt and O'Loughlin elementary schools have what is referred to by staff as cafa-gym-atoriums. The gym also serves as an auditorium and cafeteria.

Scheve said the entire school schedule has to revolve around gym class and lunch time. Because that space is in constant use, the cafeteria staff only has minutes to set up and tear down from lunch.

The bond would add new gyms to O'Loughlin and Roosevelt elementary schools. They would also serve as storm shelters. Image courtesy of DLR Grooup and USD 489

Children shelter in a hallway with sky lights at Wilson Elementary School during a tornado drill. Courtesy photo

Students pack the auditorium/cafeteria/gym at Wilson Elementary School. Couretsy photo

The location of the cafa-gym-atoriums across the hall from classrooms also are a noise issue both when there's gym in the room and lunch, Scheve said.

The middle school already has a separate gym and cafeteria. New gyms would be added at O'Loughlin and Roosevelt to alleviate space issues if the bond passes.

Those new gyms would also serve as storm shelters. The middle school school already has an addition that serves a storm shelter.

Currently, Wilson students shelter in hallways with skylights. Students at Roosevelt have to shelter in the tunnels that house the school's water pipes.

A heating unit at Wilson Elementary School is original to the building. Replacements parts can't be found because the system is outdated. Photo by Cristina Janney/Hays Post
A heating unit at Wilson Elementary School is original to the building. Replacements parts can't be found because the system is outdated. Photo by Cristina Janney/Hays Post

The outdated boiler system at Wilson means that some rooms are too, hot and some rooms are too cold for students year round. Photo by Cristina Janney/Hays Post

Sheve said there are many problems at Wilson that are unseen by most visitors. The school only has two bathrooms — one for boys and one for girls — for about 200 students in third, fourth and fifth grades.

Most of the pipes are original to the building and are in poor condition. During the last several years, the workers have had to tear out portions of walls to make repairs, Scheve said.

Lincoln, which was built in 1925, has similar infrastructure issues.

The Wilson heating system is run by a boiler that is also original to the building. It is almost impossible to find parts for the system because it's outdated, Scheve said.

Because the controls for the vents in each room don't work properly, the rooms on the first part of the the heating loop are too warm, and those at the end of the loop are always too cold.

One teacher reported that her room had reached more than 80 degrees before 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Spring is especially tough, because temperatures fluctuate so much, Scheve said. You may have a day that is cool and then a day that's 80 degrees. Once you turn off the boiler for the season, it's off.

A tiny classroom area  has been made in a corner of the library at Wilson Elementary School that is also being used for storage. Most of the schools in the district are using what were once closets or storage rooms for students and offices because of lack of space. Photo by Cristina Janney/Hays Post