Children and parents from two school areas will come together as one this fall.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- They're building a new school culture at Kirkmere Elementary School.
The newly renovated building won't be drawing pupils only from the Kirkmere community any more.
Pupils from the Sheridan Elementary School service area will become a part of the Kirkmere family this year. Sheridan is being closed as part of the district's $182 million rebuilding program.
"We're ready," said Kirkmere Principal Karen Clayton last week as final fire alarm tests were being conducted and staff members were moving into their rooms.
The Kirkmere renovation had a $7 million price tag.
Creating a new school culture is something with which Clayton has some experience.
This will be her 29th year in the city school system and she's spent the last 16 as an administrator, most recently as principal of the Sheridan and then the Taft building.
Last year, she was named principal of Kirkmere, but the building was closed as renovations began.
The kids from Kirkmere found themselves assigned to the old West Elementary building on North Hazelwood Avenue, along with children from Paul C. Bunn Elementary (which is being replaced) and fifth- and sixth-graders waiting for the new Volney Rogers Middle School to be built.
Blending into one
The school was called Kirkmere and everyone considered themselves to be part of Kirkmere, no matter where they came from, Clayton said.
"We worked very hard at that," she said, recalling that parental groups from the several schools readily adapted to the change.
So did the staff of 110 people who worked at that building.
"They came together very well. They were top-notch," Clayton said.
The biggest problem was simply the logistics of moving children around, she said, noting that there were 400 fifth- and sixth-graders but only 180 children in kindergarten through the fourth grade.
The communities from Sheridan and Kirkmere areas will do it again this year, Clayton said, adding that she anticipates no problem.
"If there is, we'll work through it," she said.
The biggest change for children from Sheridan is that they will be riding a school bus.
Most walked to school before, Clayton said, noting that about half of the Kirkmere pupils rode buses and half walked or came by car. That won't change.
She doesn't know what the culture of Kirkmere was like before, nor does it matter now, she said, explaining that she chooses to run a building as though her own children were attending classes there.
Education and the safety of children are key areas of focus, and Clayton likes to add a personal touch.
"I set the tone. I should be the first face they see in the morning and the last face they see on their way out the door," she said.
The renovated Kirkmere is expected to house about 500 children in preschool through the fourth grade, with even numbers coming from the Kirkmere and Sheridan service areas.
Registrations stood at 400 as of Wednesday.
The only part of the building that won't be ready for pupils when school begins Tuesday is the gymnasium. It won't be done for another three or four weeks.
The building has all new computers and furniture and, for the first time, air conditioning.
Each grade level has its own section of the building and each section is color-coded for directional purposes, Clayton said.
Each classroom has five new computers and a 32-inch television with DVD and VCR capabilities. There is also a telephone in each room for security purposes and to allow parents to make direct phone contact with teachers.
There is a separate room for every special discipline such as art, music, computer lab and gym.
Some of those services were mobile before, with materials loaded onto a cart and hauled from room to room by teachers, Clayton said.
Every room has its own sink and drinking fountain, and the kindergarten and first-grade rooms have their own restrooms as well, she said.