Bond seeks tech redo

THURSDAY, JAN. 13, 2011

Students at Evergreen Middle School in the Central Valley School District have the opportunity to use one of 300 computers at any given time during their regular school day. Principal John Parker said that is about one computer for every two students.

But when Evergreen was built in 1974, there were no personal computers. Classrooms were built with an electrical outlet or two, but there was really no need for more than that.

“We’ve just had to build it as we go and we’ve had to kind of improvise it,” Parker said.

The use of technology in the classroom has rendered Evergreen’s infrastructure obsolete. It is one of the reasons the school is slated for remodel and expansion if the district can pass a $69.6 million construction bond Feb. 8. The project is expected to cost $102.4 million and Central Valley expects matching funds of $32.8 million from the state. The district expects its tax rate to rise 65 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2012.

At Evergreen, the project is expected to cost around $30.93 million and will receive about $9 million in state matching funds.

Librarian Debbie Herman said she has seen the technology needs in her room increase with every passing year.

“When I started eight or nine years ago, we probably had 10 computers in here and now we have in excess of 60, Herman said of her library. “You’ve got technology going on and it’s a big space, but it’s not as big as it probably should be to house 90 kids at a time if we happen to have that many.”

Those 60 computers can fill the needs of two classrooms at a time, which has pushed the books off to the side. Not only is the space cramped, but the cords to each of those computers have been tied up in daisy chains to get to the outlets.

The facility itself is also aging, and not gracefully. Parker told the story of the school’s $800 toilet.

It’s a wall-mounted toilet which cracked a while back. To fix it, the school had to get in touch with the manufacturer which didn’t make that model anymore. Parker said the school had to get one custom made.

“And you say, well, why didn’t you replace it with some other?” Parker asked. “Well, it’s how it tied in. It’s not a floor drain, it’s a wall drain and the only way we could tie it in without having to redo the whole plumbing was to have this toilet manufactured to the tune of about 800 bucks. What happens is once it is out of order we sit and wait eight weeks before we get it.”

The walk-in coolers and freezers in the kitchen are all original to the building. Parker said one of them broke down a few summers ago.

“We scrambled all summer for parts to get them up and going and we made it, but barely,” he said. “If that would have happened during the year, I don’t know what we would have done, because honest to goodness, they were working on getting parts and pieces and it did take about two to two and a half months.”

The roof of the building is almost flat and Parker said the custodial staff is constantly changing ceiling tiles stained from leaks in the roof.

“You don’t really ever get the true picture of how bad the leaks are because we’ve got such a great custodial staff,” Parker said.

Security is also an issue for Evergreen. There is a line of several doors to enter at the front of the building, but only one of them is unlocked. That door is connected to a doorbell. When the bell rings, the office staff look up to check a mirror hanging outside the office to see who has entered. The office is off to the left side of the entrance and many visitors miss it and keep walking into the school.

“If you watch them (the office staff), if you’re just standing back and when you hear that ring, it’s almost like a conditioned response, a Pavlov’s dog,” Parker said of the office staff’s diligence. “If it were me? I’d be terrible at it.”

Mandy Mortensen teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math in an interior classroom of Evergreen. Not only does the room have no natural light, but the heating and air conditioning system doesn’t seem to work right.

“The temperature fluctuates quite a bit,” Mortensen said. “It’s really warm in the fall, plus-80 degrees sometimes. In the winter it’s gotten down to 65 degrees, and when you’re in here all day that gets a little chilly. The kids never know how to dress.”

Central Valley’s plan for Evergreen also includes expansion. Growth in the east side of the district has created problems at Greenacres Middle School.

“We used to overflow Greenacres here,” said district spokesperson Melanie Rose. “But, because there were so many Greenacres kids and not enough room here and we were trying to keep them all together, we started just sending them all to North Pines.”

Parker said the challenges he and his staff face in their aging building are tough, but they do what they have to do.

“You make it work, and I think school people are probably usually pretty good about that,” Parker said. “We just come into it, say, ‘Here’s what I’ve got, let’s make it work.’ Let’s teach them up.”

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