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By Judy La Russa

Winter construction! Photos by Erin Gillespie

  On August 16, 2017, Columbia Elementary School’s first through fourth-grade students will be arriving on their first day of the school year to brand new classrooms. The new rooms, estimated at

$5.5 million at phase one of the project, began in August 2016.  Superintendent Clay Ross said they are planning their final walk through on July 11 and will be hosting a grand opening at 3:00 p.m. on August 10.



One of the portables being moved. Photo by Erin Gillespie

The new classroom project consists of two building; 16 classrooms in total with eight classrooms in each of the 9,600 square foot buildings. The units are designed in such a way that four classrooms are surrounded by a common ‘breakout’ room or pod which can be used for small group instruction or activities.  “The idea behind the extra space is that we typically have four teachers per grade level.  By situating each of those teachers around a common ‘pod’ will provide the opportunity for each grade to have paraprofessional instructional—remediation or enrichment support,” said Ross.


The new classrooms will be furnished with top notch technology and security.  Each room will be equipped with a projector, smartboard and a class set of Chromebooks.  Teachers will all have the option of using a voice amplification system tied with their computer to the audio/video system so sound/video is broadcast in the classroom. 

The new school project includes front perimeter fencing and gates allowing for the entire facility to be encircled. Fire and security has been connected to the rest of the school and the fire panels updated.  All lighting is LED and the classrooms have light sensors to automatically adjust illumination at a consistent dispersion accommodating for natural light. 

 HVAC is not necessarily thought of as a technology, but perhaps this one qualifies.  Furnished with Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) that will allow the system to transfer heat and cold from classroom to classroom. If one classroom gets too warm and another too cool, the system can just transfer the heat from the warm room to the cool room to warm up the cool room. Thus, the system won’t need to run as much and is therefore significantly more efficient.

As for the outdoor areas—the district has been working with an Eagle Scout candidate to irrigate and landscape the courtyard. The school’s Garden Club and Parent Activities Committees are working with the superintendent with planning another area where some storm drains were installed.  On the west side, they are planning on additional grass and hardscape paths for entrance and exit to the play fields. 

By the time school starts, the school will be finished with the construction of a new 63-stall parking lot on the southeast area of the property. In the near future, they are in hopes to begin construction of a gymnasium with a stage for performances.

Some of the old classrooms/portables that are being replaced will be utilized for the after-school and summer programs, one room for music, two rooms for physical education, additional rooms for STEM, one for art projects and one for a sensory room.

Superintendent Ross said that they are already starting to move teacher’s supplies into the new rooms. “Right now, all of our third and fourth-grade teachers have their boxes in their rooms and will begin getting their rooms ready.  Next week, we plan on moving second-grade and then the first-grade classroom.  Our new student chairs will begin arriving on Monday, June 26.  Hopefully the new students’ desks will be here by the time school starts August 16.”  He adds, “I do have a few other projects up my sleeves that I think our families and staff will be happy to see when they come back to school, but your readers will need to come see it for themselves hopefully around August 10.”