Parents, teachers and neighborhood residents of Pinckney School asked questions and offered some observations about how best to upgrade the school if Lawrence voters approve a bond issue next spring.
About 30 people turned out for a public input meeting, the first in a series that Lawrence school officials will hold throughout the district over the next several weeks to gather public feedback about the needs of each school.
David Unekis, a neighborhood resident whose daughter attended Pinckney before advancing to middle school, indicated he supported a bond issue but was equally concerned about investing in human capital as well as the physical building.
“Having a 4,000-square-foot library is awesome, but we’re barely able to put a librarian into them,” Unekis said. “I don’t want to see the tail wagging the dog.”
Sherry Tamerius, a Title I reading and math teacher now in her 10th year at Pinckney, said she was concerned about preserving the beauty and history of the 1930s-era building.
“I’m just sentimental,” Tamerius said. “I would hate to see the wooden bannisters go. Some of those little things, helping preserve some of that.”
John Wilkins, a principal in the design firm Gould Evans Associates, assured Tamerius that those factors would be taken into consideration.
Wilkins opened the meeting earlier by giving a brief summary of Pinckney’s design and equipment needs. The firm has spent the last several months surveying all of the district’s buildings, paying particular attention to the older elementary schools in central and East Lawrence where officials think the most work needs to be done in order to bring them up to the same standards as the newer, more modern schools in west Lawrence.
Pinckney, which is one of the oldest buildings in the district, also presents some of the greatest challenges, Wilkins said.
For example, it provides the lowest level of “thermal comfort” of all the grade schools in Lawrence, suggesting a need for major heating and air conditioning upgrades.
It also has a relatively small gymnasium, one barely large enough for a basketball court, which also doubles as the school cafeteria. That means the gym/cafeteria can be used for only one purpose at a time, while in other schools that have both, those rooms can serve multiple purposes outside of meal time and gym class.
Meanwhile, the classrooms themselves are ill-equipped for 21st century teaching practices, Wilkins said. Most don’t have enough outlets to support computers and other kinds of technology now commonly used in classes.
Many rooms also are not large enough to accommodate “project-based learning,” where pupils work together in small groups, collaborating on assignments. Project-based learning, Wilkins noted, is a major emphasis in the new Common Core Standards for English/language arts and math, which will be fully implemented in the 2014-15 school year.
Wilkins and his associates from Gould Evans presented some options that would provide more flexibility, such as reconfiguring walls in the buildings to combine classrooms so teachers can collaborate with one another and still have their own isolated class.
District officials have scheduled 16 more public input meetings from now through Nov. 19. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Kennedy School, 1605 Davis Road.
The complete schedule is available on the district’s website, usd497.org.