Building schools for growth

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SHERMAN -- As the spring semester winds down for students and teachers, construction crews in Sherman are gearing up to finish an elementary school in time for fall. It's just one of two new schools the district is building to accommodate significant growth in the city.

Sherman school administrators say the district-wide construction is part of a 77 million dollar bond election. They say the features at the new Neblett Elementary School will help students learn in the safest and most effective environment, and allow for even more growth in the future.

They're drilling and installing sheet rock; preparing the way for students and teachers to walk these hallways.

"Our students deserve the best facilities,” said Al Hambrick, Sherman ISD superintendent. “Our current facilities are good; we are going to make them better."

They say they’re starting with safety. Director of maintenance Chuck Edwards says once visitors pass through the front doors, they'll have to speak to a receptionist first for proper identification.

"Once they're id-ed they'll open a second set of doors and be able to go through the building," Edwards said.

The school will also be the largest elementary school in the district, occupying 81,000 square feet, as administrators expect future growth in Sherman.

Even with a large building, a central hallway is designed to allow principals to see every corridor at once, and watch what's happening in the gym. A window in the gym wall allows the principal to watch what’s happening from the hallway.

A sound vestibule is also a new feature in schools, separating the noise from gym class and the classroom.
"It airlocks the noise coming out into the hallway. These are 2 doors where the activity won't affect the instructional part," Edwards said.

School leaders also researched the most effective learning environment and, like school buildings from years past, they found sunlight fit into the equation.

They included windows throughout the building, and added a level called a clear-story to add more sunlight. The sunlight bounces off of a sun shelf and into the classroom. Each classroom will have sensors too, to adjust the lights for the best level for learning and to conserve energy.

This week crews are installing outside windows, and hope to finish installing glass panels inside the building next week. Cabinets and millwork are next, Edwards said.
Tile is already installed in some of the restrooms all in time for a new school year.

Sory Elementary is also being built with a similar design. It's set to open in 2008. Over at Piner Middle School, workers are building an athletic field house and making classroom additions.

Sherman High and Dillingham Intermediate are set to receive renovations as well. Once those projects are complete, the administration building is scheduled to receive a facelift.

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