CASSOPOLIS - Given the condition of Sam Adams Elementary School prior to its reconstruction, it’s no wonder Principal DeeAnn Melville-Voss is giddy these days.
“It’s a gorgeous building. We feel so blessed,’’ she said last week.
Indeed she should. When Melville-Voss asked Deb Stermer, the lead teacher at Sam Adams, to detail some of the problems that plagued educators before the building’s reconstruction, Stermer asked, “How much time do you have?” She and Melville-Voss then ticked off a long list of shortcomings that included:
nþMold in some of the ceilings and carpeting.
nþA “Niagara Falls” setting stemming from a leaking roof that sometimes greeted visitors at the school’s entrance.
nþAir leaks in windows that were so severe in some classrooms the wind would move curtains even when the windows were closed.
nþWooden doors that would swell so badly they wouldn’t open, prompting teachers to keep them open at all times.
nþSewage that would back up in restroom toilets.
nþThe lack of sound-proofing, forcing teachers to halt instructions whenever a freight train or emergency vehicle operating a siren would pass by.
nþNo air conditioning, resulting in fans that, according to Melville-Voss, would only “blow around hot air.”
There’s no doubt a new school, or at least one rebuilt around an existing but upgraded gymnasium and cafeteria as is now the case, was in order. Yet Melville-Voss and Stermer said the bond issue that funded the project was a hard sell, largely because school officials kept the building clean for students and visitors.
“People would come in and say, ‘I don’t see anything wrong,’” Melville-Voss said.
Three votes were required before school district residents finally approved a $16 million bond issue, scaled back from an initial $29.5 million request. Passed 553-390 in February 2010, the 15-month construction project that ensued led to the new Sam Adams that was formally dedicated last week.
The school features 32 classrooms, accommodating 542 kindergarten through sixth-grade students and 60 staff members, and has all the latest technology such as computers and interactive writing surfaces. The playground, too, is New Age, with a “boat” - technically, an Aero Glider provided for a paraplegic pupil but used by all the students - among its equipment.
Students who previously attended the now-closed Squires Elementary School are among those now at Sam Adams. Zachary Greenfield, 10, a fifth-grade student and Sam Adams veteran, listed the bathrooms, laptops and iPads as his favorite features, along with its second floor.
“I like how high its been getting,” he said.
For Maile Barber, 10, another fifth-grader, the interactive writing surfaces, boat and sinks situated just off the hallways to promote clean hands earned rave reviews.
“People don’t play around with them,” she said of the latter, explaining students at old Sam Adams had a tendency to splash water from the faucets at other sink users.
It appears it’ll take a while for the new surroundings to sink in. Melville-Voss and Stermer still find it hard to believe.
“It seems surreal,” they said.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: