Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Southwest students, teachers ready for addition, end of portable classrooms

January 31, 2007


Southwest Junior High moving day

A look inside the new school and preparations for the move.See audio slideshow »

The days are numbered for portable classrooms at Lawrence's Southwest Junior High School.

And it couldn't come sooner for students who were walking to class in the snowy, cold weather Wednesday.

"I don't want to walk out here anymore," said Amanda Fevurly, a seventh-grader, as she hurried between the main building and one of the six portable classrooms.

"It won't be much longer," chimed in Allison Harwood, also a seventh-grader.

Allison was right.

"We anticipate being able to start moving in on Friday," said Trish Bransky, school principal.

By Monday, a majority of the 16 classrooms and four offices are expected to be ready for students and staff.

They are part of a $6.9 million building project that went under construction in January 2006. The project also includes an auxiliary gym, a conference room, a hallway and three courtyards.

The last part of the project, the gym, is expected to be complete in March, said Tom Bracciano, the district's director of facilities and operations planning.

"A long chapter in the history of the portables is coming to an end," Bracciano said.

The portable classrooms have been fixtures at the school since 1995, a year after the school opened. Bracciano said the first two were brought in to deal with an increase in enrollment related to residential growth in western Lawrence.

Map of Southwest Junior High with new areas shaded in orange.

Map of Southwest Junior High with new areas shaded in orange.

"We've added portables slowly but surely over the years," he said.

The school, which was built to handle up to 500 students, is now the largest junior high in the city, with 653 students. The new addition will help Southwest have up to 750 students.

South Junior High School, which has an enrollment of 591, and West Junior High School, which has 580, also will be able to have 750 students when their construction projects are finished later this year. Central Junior High School, which has 443 students, will be able to handle 600 students when its addition is finished.

On Wednesday, many of the finishing touches were being put on Southwest's new classrooms, which are on the north and west walls of the building. Electricians were putting in wiring for outlets; painters were touching up around windows; and tables and chairs were being removed from boxes and assembled.

Bransky said three new science rooms were still having some plumbing fixtures installed and wouldn't be ready until the middle of next week.

"We're really grateful to our community for providing the addition to our facility," Bransky said. "It should help us do an even better job at educating our kids in our community."

The Southwest project, which also included a cafeteria that opened last fall, are part of a $54 million bond issue that Lawrence voters approved in April 2005.

Bransky said most of the students and staff were looking forward to moving out of the portable classrooms, which have caused problems.

"This afternoon, it's snowing and we're having to clear space and keep the walkways safe," Bransky said. "We won't have that issue anymore."

The old portables - which cost about $60,000 - have been auctioned off to an out-of-state vendor, who paid about $1,000 apiece for them, Bracciano said. They will be removed from the school property in about a month.

Bracciano compared the portables - new double-wide trailers - to cars in how fast they depreciate. He also said that it costs about $4,000 to have them moved.

Bransky said almost every student has had a class in one of the portables, which house 10 classrooms.

"We figure that about 200 students and staff are either moving in or out of the portable classrooms every 45 minutes," Bransky said. "So it's a significant number of people who are outside in the elements on a day like this, where the wind chill is around zero."

Students at the school said they were looking forward to the move.

"I'm excited for it. Because when it gets cold outside, I don't really like to be walking all the way outside," Hannah Hall, an eighth-grader, said after she finished the walk. "Hopefully, I'll get to my classes on time quicker."


javery 11 years, 1 month ago

Wow, the graphic for this article that is currently at the top of the ljworld website is amazingly sloppy.

Movin' on over Southwest students ready to occupy new $6.9 building

At first I thought they were talking about something for KU students from the Southwest, but even this slightly confusing part of the title wasn't nearly as bad as the "$6.9 building" part of the title. Only six dollars and ninety cents? How cheap! Well, I know obviously that it was $6.9 million (and from reading the article), but that was a seriously sloppy headline. At least make it "$6.9 m building" or something like that.

Eric Neuteboom 11 years, 1 month ago

Those who live in glass houses parsimonious...

salad 11 years, 1 month ago

From the diagram, they're providing 24 rooms/spaces for $6.9 million. That works out to $287,500 per room. they could've built an entire new school for that amount. I could build a pretty nice 8-10 room house for that per/room price!!! Your incompetent district administration at work. You can also be sure that they'll come beggin' for more money next year because they don't have build more palace-like schools.

Dale Stringer 11 years, 1 month ago

Salad - better that than a 144-room dormatory costing $20M that's going to be built at Shaw AFB, SC. $138,000 for a bedroom. Especially when the bases houses there wouldn't qualify as HUD homes.

j4708 11 years, 1 month ago

According to the article this and related projects will allow each of the junior highs to expand: SW from 653 to 750; S from 591 to 750; W from 580 to 750; and Central from 443 to 600. That is room for 583 more students in a district with declining enrollment! How much more money will we spend on these phantom students before we decide to make the school district accountable for our tax dollars?

Eric Neuteboom 11 years, 1 month ago

J4708: They're not phantom students. They're real students without a "classroom." Don't tell me you're seriously taking a position in favor of portable classrooms?

And besides, this bond was voted on. I'm willing to bet you didn't even vote back in '05 on this issue.

Seriously, the anti-education sentiment in these last few posts is alarming. Schools cost money, deal with it!

salad 11 years, 1 month ago

Not "anti-educational", but rather "anti-educational establishment". Get it right coach. Schools don't need to cost THAT much money. We demand accountability on the part of these worthless administrators who see tax base as a bottomless ATM.

budwhysir 11 years, 1 month ago

did we fund a feasability research study on this project????

Eric Neuteboom 11 years, 1 month ago

Have you been in SWJHS and seen what they've done? I have, as my fiancee works there. I think your math is overly simple too. You seem to simply subscribe to the "single switch" theory, when the costs associated with said project can be simply divided by the number of rooms. It would be nice if things were that simple, but they're not, IMHO.

I understand your point too about a bottomless tax base. I feel I'm in an odd situation, a homeowner and soon-to-be married to a teacher! Can I just give the taxes to her?!? At least I'd get something back...groceris, beer, anything...

j4708 11 years, 1 month ago

Coach: I did vote and do so in every election.

I said nothing about the portables. Look at the excess capacity that was built. Every one is moving from the portables into the building and there is still enough capacity for another 583 students according to the article. Those are phantom students.

The only school with increasing enrollment is the virtual school. Why do we continue to build hoping that they will come.

Yes, schools cost money, but that does not justify wasting money. Couldn't some of that money been put to better use than building empty classrooms. Will building even more buildings help our children? Instead of bricks and mortar, maybe we need to look at what can be done inside the buildings to improve the education experience.

Eric Neuteboom 11 years, 1 month ago

We could go round and round but we have to agree to disagree. It's not as if there's capacity for 583 students at one school, it's around 100 for SWJHS? And this measure will improve the experience inside the building as classes will be less crowded and the students get more individual attention.

I find it amazing too that you contend that the declining enrollment in the local school district is a perfectly linear, easily predictable event. The fluctuations will continue (up and down), and I wouldn't be surprised if in 10 years another JHS was needed to handle all the students.

Regardless, enjoyed the debate!

letsgetwise 11 years, 1 month ago

So... people at SWJH are tired of the portables. Do you know how many schools in Lawrence have had portables? And for how long? SWJH is nothing special. It's been cold before and snowed before and I don't remember anyone writing articles about the portables at Broken Arrow Elem. or at SJHS or at WJHS. I'm glad they're getting rid of them. I voted for the bond. But, SWJH hasn't had it any worse with portables than any other school.

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