Greetings to Pine-Richland Students, Staff, Parents and Community,
As part of my approach to communication, I send a separate monthly letter to staff and families. The situation at HanceElementary at the start of the 2018 – 2019 school year is worth reflection across the entire organization through a single message. In 23 years of education, I have not seen nor heard of another school district coming together to build a school-within-a-school in eight hours…and returning it in four. The opportunity exists to highlight this experience through the Spotlight on Excellence and also point out some lessons learned.
Established through the last strategic planning process, our mission, vision and values are used to strengthen our culture and drive action. Specifically, the PRIDE acronym represents: Personal Growth; Resiliency; Innovation; Diverse Opportunities; and Engagement. The experiences with staff, students and parents at Hance, Eden Hall and throughout our entire community give us the opportunity to clearly illustrate three values in particular: Innovation; Resiliency; and Engagement. I feel so incredibly fortunate to work in an organization that demonstrates the ability to join together to overcome an obstacle…not just to “get through it” but to exceed expectations and deliver a quality educational experience to students.
Spotlight on Resiliency
Located above the drop ceiling, the discovery of mold on the insulation surrounding chilled water lines at Hance led to further investigation and testing. The start of school was delayed for Hance students and staff for the first two days of the year. The timing of discovery and testing led to late notice…very difficult news for students, staff and families that are fired up for the first day of school. It was an especially tough break for kindergarten students and parents sending their oldest child to school for the very first time. We were intentional about frequent and detailed communications at the start of this situation and throughout the process.
Resiliency is defined at PRSD as “the ability to adapt well in the face of hard times and build upon one’s strengths.” The identification of mold and postponement of school was difficult for students, staff and families. How long will it take to fix it? What kind of mold is it? Should we be concerned? Will we need to make-up the days? The list of questions was long. But resiliency was the ability for students, staff and families to handle the next bit of news…school will start for Hance at Eden Hall on Tuesday, August 28th…after we build it.
Spotlight on Innovation
A staff meeting was held at Eden Hall at 7:45 a.m. on August 27th and at Hance at 8:00 a.m. “Let us be clear…we are going to build Hance within Eden Hall in the next seven…eight…nine hours. We are not going to just ‘get through this’ or ‘survive it.’ We are going to deliver the entire educational program and have the best start of school we can remember.” It required innovation to build a school-within-a-school in a day. It required more innovation to adapt within that new space and deliver an effective program.
We had waited for indoor air quality tests to be analyzed and returned on August 25th. We were ready for “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” based on the news. Unfortunately, we received the bad news. That news triggered a set of actions to design and build HanceElementary School within the music and physical education wing of Eden Hall. It meant moving furniture…buying carpet…shifting phones and interactive display boards…buying packing boxes…a moving truck…food service…bus routing…occupational therapy…building a front office/reception area…speech…gifted education…special education…recess…and the details continued.
This first photo shows the temporary front desk. All phone lines were rerouted and technology installed. The door buzzer system was tied to a laptop for visitor management. The middle photo is a third-grade classroom located in the Eden Hall auditorium. Although the volume of noise could be challenging at times with multiple classes in that large group space separated by eight-foot privacy screens, teachers designed and delivered effective lessons. The final picture is the construction of a computer lab for this special area rotation in an empty art room at Eden Hall. These are just a few examples of innovation. Teachers even used the bleachers in the gym and auditorium for makeshift shelves. Cafeteria, arrival/dismissal, restrooms and recess were revised over the days of Hance @ Eden Hall for improved efficiency and effectiveness.
Spotlight on Engagement
The value of engagement was nothing short of remarkable. Upon hearing it many years ago, I have always loved the quote, “many hands make light work.” It was never more true than in the eight hours of building Hance @ Eden Hall or four hours of returning Hance to Hance. It is the people that make an excellent school…and it required people to make things happen. The list is so long that it is difficult to complete. Examples include: custodial staff; maintenance staff; Eden Hall staff; Hance staff; District Office staff; parent volunteers; staff volunteers from the high school, middle school, Wexford and Richland; Student Transportation of America; and Sodexo Food Service. These photos capture a small representation of the team effort (i.e., Hance Parent Volunteers, Custodial/Maintenance Staff, and Other District Staff).
Given a challenging situation, we are proud of students, staff and parents for living the values of resiliency, innovation and engagement. In recent years, we have strengthened our capital projects plan. We have enhanced and refined our approach to preventive maintenance. We already conduct a wide range of testing related to water, gas lines, safety equipment and more. This recent experience will provide further opportunity for continuous improvement. We will reflect on key learnings and then take proactive steps to strengthen our comprehensive approach to our buildings and grounds.
The theme at HanceElementary School for 2018 – 2019 is “There is No Place Like Hance.” When originally selected, the staff had no idea how appropriate that theme would be used to capture the start of the year. In keeping with the Wizard of Oz theme, Ms. Kuzilla, Hance Principal, and Dr. Silbaugh, Assistant Superintendent ofElementary Education, were finally able to welcome students back to Hance @ Hance for their “second first day” in the roles of Dorothy and Glinda (note the yellow brick road)!
Thank you to all for your commitment to the students and families of the Pine-Richland School District. Have a great start to the school year.