Pupils start new year at new annex

January 05, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Fourth-grade teacher Marilyn Urban said she wishes she could see the looks on the children's faces as they get off the buses tomorrow and set eyes on their temporary quarters, the Mechanicsville Elementary School annex.

But chances are the looks will not have worn off by the time the students make their way onto a boardwalk and into the portable classrooms where their teachers will be waiting for them, Mrs. Urban said.

"It's like an adventure," she said. "And, in the middle of the year, it kind of gives you a boost to do something new."

Mechanicsville Elementary School students got an extra few days of winter vacation while their teachers and principal moved boxes, desks and everything else out of the old school and into storage or portable classrooms they will occupy for at least the next 18 months.

For a lot of the teachers who readied their rooms yesterday, the inconvenience of the move and small, portable classrooms seemed less important than the adventure Mrs. Urban described.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Joy Dain, a fifth-grade teacher. "I have air conditioning, I can regulate the heat, I have a boardwalk and I'm a lot closer to home. Those are things a lot of people take for granted."

Indeed, the old school did not have air conditioning or carpeting as the portables do, said Mrs. Urban.

"We didn't even have heat that worked half the time," she said. "We didn't have carpeting, either. I love the new bathrooms."

Each portable has four classrooms and one set of boys' and girls' restrooms, each with three stalls and three sinks.

Dottie Pitcher, a fourth-grade teacher who is the senior teacher in the school with 25 years there, got to pick a room with a view of the hillside. Most have a view of the beige portable next door.

"We think this is going to be cozy, like family," she said of the new quarters.

Yesterday, Mrs. Pitcher's room was bright, with a neat Chesapeake Bay bulletin board display tacked up on a wall. Most of the classrooms looked ready to go yesterday, mainly because teachers and principal Cynthia Eckenrode came in during the holidays to move, unpack and decorate.

Other rooms, such as fourth-grade teacher Judy Thompson's, were still brimming with scores of boxes and stacked desks and chairs.

At a meeting yesterday, Mrs. Eckenrode offered teachers suggestions on dealing with the annex, such as having children travel in pairs if they have to walk from a portable to the office. Kindergartners will be accompanied by an adult or older child, Mrs. Eckenrode said.

"You might want to discuss your expectations with them," she told teachers. "They may not be any different than they were at the beginning of the year. But because we're in a new physical space, it might be a good idea to go over them again with the children."

Teachers and parents have been preparing for the move for months, she said, talking with their counterparts at Sandymount Elementary, which occupied the annex while their school was renovated. The Sandymount students moved back to their own school in November.

Mrs. Dain and the other three fifth-grade teachers will encounter the biggest difference in the way they teach, with an open classroom setup. Between the four classrooms are walls and open doorways.

Mrs. Dain said the layout will give the teachers and students a chance to do more things together, but will also require some adjustment -- such as speaking in lower voices than when each teacher had a room.

Mrs. Eckenrode is a principal this year for the first time, after five years as an assistant principal at Robert Moton Elementary. She said she doesn't mind the added burden.

"I was probably fortunate to have this in my first year, because it has brought us together as a school community," she said.

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