While the three teachers anticipate the benefits of the new facility, if it is approved, they want patrons to be aware of the current teaching conditions their departments endure.
Bergin said lack of space is a key issue for FACS classes.
“Right now, I’ve moved half of our sewing desks out, and we’re tripping all over each other,” she said. “We rearrange furniture pretty constantly to get the most out of our space.”
For cooking classes, Bergin has two small and two larger kitchens at her disposal.
“One of the hopes and dreams is that we can get four kitchens that are evenly matched, so that each kitchen has the same equipment and same supplies—just for management issues,” she said. “We can have the same number of kids in each lab.”
Plumbing presents another challenge in a facility that was constructed in 1937.
“The hot-water heater is clear on the other side of the building,” Bergin said. “So it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for the sink to get any hot water. We waste a tremendous amount of water and a lot of class time because only one sink can get hot at a time.”
And there are ventilation issues.
“Anytime we have a cooking project that doesn’t turn out quite as we planned—it’s burned or smoking—we either have to turn the smoke alarms off, which isn’t safe, or we have to open the windows—and its 18 degrees outside.
“And we have a gravel road right out here (by the windows) so all the dust from the road comes in.”
For Manche, classroom management is a challenge. Her ag students are spread throughout a convoluted area that features multiple additions.
“The biggest concern I have is monitoring students,” Manche said. “Having one area where we can supervise them better is going to be a benefit, and then also we’ll be able to offer more opportunities.”
The age of the vo-ag building makes it impractical to repair the many leaks in the roof.
“There are concerns about it falling in,” Fast said. “Wray Roofing said the life expectancy of this building has reached its limits and they won’t even walk up there.”
With approval of the bond issue, the old building used for ag education will be razed.
Regarding the science lab, instructor Donna O’Neill said student safety is her biggest concern.
“We’ve had some fairly severe problems in that area in terms of the ventilation in particular, and also our infrastructure,” she said. “The plumbing area is very leaky. We’ve had three major floods this school year where we’ve had to call a plumber out. The floors get slippery when wet, obviously. It’s a big problem.
“The gas taps and gas lines have all been shut off for at least six years, maybe longer,” she added. “Because of that, anytime we have a lab with flames, we have to use hand-held burners, which are inherently more dangerous.
“We have a main shut-off switch somewhere, and we could kill everything in the whole room with one switch. But if you use individual handheld burners, and some student goes berserk, it’s much harder to contain the situation.”
If the bond issue is passed, the current science lab will be used for art classes, the former art room will be transformed into an expanded weight room, and the current weight room will be used for special education and alumni services.
The new facility will enable the three departments to dovetail their curriculum and cooperate on projects, according to the teachers.
“I think the collaboration aspect of the project is really cool—being able to combine the three programs so we can do some projects together and use the same resources, Bergin said.
“We can have a more streamlined content, recognizing that science is really good at this part, ag education is really good at that part, and FACS is really good at another part. We can work together on a cohesive project.”
Manche said she is looking forward to a structure and layout where monitoring student activities is more manageable, and O’Neill shares that hope.
“I like the setup of having lab stations around the perimeter of the room instead of the middle,” O’Neill said. “These tables are a huge navigation hazard. I also like the idea of having separate storage areas, because right now everything is just on shelves. The chemicals are all locked up, but a chemical storage room would be ideal.
“We’re also going to be upgrading the technology level in here,” O’Neill added. “We’re developing a biotechnology program—we’re going to work with DNA and stuff like that. We’ll also be using a lot more censors and probes that are cutting edge.
“I’m just super-excited about the whole project. It will be awesome.”
In projects separate from the new addition, student safety issues will be addressed with the construction of a storm shelter at the grade school, and remodeling the entrance at the high school so office staff will be able to monitor the arrival and departure of visitors.
Fast said he is hopeful that District 411 patrons are seeing the value of, and need for, the project.
“I’d say the vibe from the community has been very positive and supportive,” he said. “We’re not trying to tell people how to vote, but we want them to be educated about what the needs are and why we’re proposing this. They have to make the determination, and let the board know loud and clear what they want to have done.
Fast added, “I really think for the future of our school and our students, this is a really good option for us. I’m excited for them and excited for the instructors.”