Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

August 13, 2012

Cutting-edge facility

TAHLEQUAH — Staff members at Heritage Elementary are still trying to let the reality of their new, modern school facility sink in.

In just a few days, this multi-million dollar site will officially open for class, and students who live in I-35’s new southern zone will be calling themselves Heritage Eagles.

“My staff has been working all summer to get ready for this,” said Principal Lacie Davenport.

Davenport, the former Cherokee Elementary principal, was chosen earlier this year to lead the new school. She can’t hide her excitement about Heritage Elementary and the way it was designed with student success and safety in mind.

“Everybody has a place,” said Davenport.

The main entrance is located on the north side of the building, at 333 Southridge Road. Upon entering the main doors, visitors will find themselves in a welcome lobby of three “wings” of the school. Straight ahead, visitors will find a pair of double doors, which students will use to enter the main hallway; and to the left are double doors providing access to the main office. The main entrance door and the doors to the office are the only ones that will be unlocked throughout the day.

“This is the main office,” said Davenport. “Everything happens through here.”

Just behind the main office are smaller offices for the principal’s secretary, the parent liaison, Davenport, one of two school teachers’ lounges, and one of two conference rooms.

The school resource officer’s office is the first one in the main hallway of the school.

“It’s nice that it’s right here at the front, where he can help monitor what’s going on,” said Davenport.

Just up from the SRO’s office, to the left, is the school library – a large, colorful room filled with books and other helpful resources. Every class will participate in a rotation schedule, so that students end up in the library once a week for lessons and research.

Right next to the library is what will eventually be a broadcast room for the students.

“We don’t have any computers running yet, but we’re hoping this will be a broadcast room and we can do a morning show, and it can come over the TVs. The kids can put that on,” said Davenport. “It won’t start right at the beginning, but as soon as we get all of our technology set up. So we are very, very excited about that.”

The nurse’s office is also nearby, as is a computer lab and a parent-resource room.

“We’ll have computers which parents can come and use for things that may help their child, like any sort of research they may need to do,” said Davenport. “We’ll also have a list of things volunteers can work on for us, and they might come in here and do some laminating for teachers, or work on putting books together for teachers.”

All classrooms at the new school have tables instead of individual student desks. While the method isn’t exactly new, Davenport said she’s never led a school that adopted the idea across the board.

“We have a concept of cooperative learning, and students can work together,” said Davenport. “Normally, the older grades always have desks, so my teachers were a little nervous at first, but I think they’re going to enjoy the concept once it gets going.”

Aside from all of the offices, the first wing of Heritage Elementary is also home to kindergarten and first-grade classes, and is known as the “purple wing.” The school incorporates colors, shapes, and other methods to help students identify where they belong.

“All the hallways are color-coordinated, so students know where they go,” said Davenport.

Among the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms is a literacy lab, where kindergarten students will find some extra help.

“All kindergarten classrooms will go for 30 minutes a day, so every child will get an extra dose of literacy, if you will,” said Davenport. “So, we have four teachers who will sit in here, and they work with five or six students on their particular skill, and then all the other grades will be able to utilize it, as well.”

As she walks through the corridor connecting the first and second wings, Davenport points out the windows to the empty spaces outside.

“You’ll notice as we’re walking that we still don’t have a playground. We will have a kindergarten and first-grade playground, and then we’ll have a second-, third-, and fourth-grade playground, and it’s supposed to be in around Aug. 20. It won’t be installed then, but it hopefully will be in,” said Davenport. “In the meantime, it’s a possibility that we’ll go outside for a few minutes, let students throw around a football or something like that, but then we’ve also asked the parents to donate games, so students will have some inside-recess games, like board games.”

Wing 2 is the green wing, for second- and third-graders. Aside from their classes, students will find the school’s music room in the second wing. The large room connects to the school’s stage, which is inside the large cafeteria next door.

“We think it’s really nice, and we’re excited,” said Davenport.

The third wing is the blue wing for fourth-grade students and, by 2016, fifth-grade students who will move away from the Tahlequah Middle School campus and back into the elementary sites. The school’s gymnasium is in this wing. There’s also a physical and occupational therapy room, and a second computer lab. Just outside this portion of the facility is a patio area.

“We have ordered some tables to put out on this patio, and we’re hoping maybe students, as a positive reward, can come out here and have lunch or something,” she said.

Heritage Elementary was built to accommodate special-needs students and those with physical disabilities, Davenport said.

“The whole school is very handicap-accessible, which is definitely a plus,” she said.

Students will always travel together as a class, and with a teacher, through the building. All doors will be locked throughout the day for student safety.

Davenport hopes to see Heritage become a Great Expectations Model School.

“We know we won’t get that status right off, but we’re going to live that way,” said Davenport. “You have to have Great Expectations come in and observe your teachers, and 90 percent of your staff has to be what they call Great Expectations teachers. But I honestly think it’s the way you treat kids, being respectful. I’m encouraging my teachers to live that example.”

Getting to and              from Heritage

Doors at Heritage will open for students to arrive as early as 7 a.m. each morning, and parents must access Heritage Elementary from Southridge Road. One car lane entering the school will be closed in the morning as a safety precaution.

A teacher will be on-hand by 7:40 a.m. to greet students arriving in the car line. Breakfast will be served from 7:30-8 a.m., and classes begin at 8:10 a.m. Students who arrive before breakfast begins should go to the school’s gymnasium.

The regular school day ends at 3:10 p.m., except for students who participate in Boys & Girls Club’s after-school program, which runs until 5:30 p.m. Students who walk home after the regular school day will be released at 3:05.

“Some parents are a little nervous about that,” said Davenport. “They will need to have a permission form for those kids to walk home. I will have teachers who will physically walk students off the school site – one almost to the apartments [to the east of Heritage], and one to the crossing guard [to the west of Heritage on Southridge Road].”

Bus traffic will flow through the east side of the campus, away from car traffic. Buses are set to enter from Willis Road when construction is completed.

“The car line goes in the front of the school, which is the north side. In the afternoon, for car riders, we’re going to have two lanes,” said Davenport. “If you’re picking up a child in third or fourth grade, you’ll need to be in the left-hand lane. I’ll take those kids over, before traffic moves through, and line them up. Kindergarten, first and second-grade parents will wait in the right-hand lane, and we’ll load them there. I don’t know how this will work, but we’re going to try it. We’ll have three loading stations on each side, so really we’ll have a total of six, which I hope helps us keep things moving. And if you’re afraid of having to wait in a long line, I tell parents to show up at 3:20. By then, some of the traffic will have moved through.”

Davenport recommends parents stay in their car and wait for their child, rather than pulling into a nearby parking lot. Once in that parking lot, parents will be blocked in until the car-line traffic is gone.

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