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Dibrell students dealing with delays
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Curtains separate classrooms. The cafeteria line is in a hall, and the band room is just up the front steps in the school’s original entrance way. But none of this has put a damper on the spirits of Dibrell School students and staff.
Construction delays with the school’s major expansion have required teachers to hold classes in what is left of the original building, which has considerably reduced floor space due to changes and new construction in that section. When the expansion is finished, it will provide a state-of-the-art, 109,000-square-foot facility, but bad weather days have pushed back the completion date to late October, and some are questioning whether that date will be met since construction is reportedly lagging behind even further.
Meanwhile Dibrell faculty and students are making the best of a difficult situation.
“Learning is going on here,” said curriculum coordinator Joe Bost, who, along with principal Robbie Hitchcock and the faculty, have managed to create classroom space where none existed before. One class is being held in the former kitchen, while other areas have been partitioned off with curtains.
To say the staff has been creative with its ideas would be an understatement. Teachers even saved money by utilizing materials they already had.
“These are our stage curtains,” said Bost of the material hung up to separate several classrooms.
Since the new cafeteria is yet to be completed, and the old one is filled with students, food is handed out in a hallway and the students eat in their classrooms.
“They’re taking it all in stride,” said Bost. “They’re doing fine and classes are continuing as usual.”
When it became obvious the expansion wasn’t going to be completed in time for the start of school, school system officials began scrambling to find room to house what looked to be a surplus of students. Sending students to class in other buildings or other schools was considered, but this didn’t sit well with Dibrell’s administration and staff, so they went to work to make room, and managed to accomplish that goal, something of which Bost and Hitchcock are understandably proud.
“If we hadn’t done this, then the students would have had to go somewhere else,” Bost said. “And we didn’t want that. We wanted them here at Dibrell.”
Director of Schools Dr. Jerry Hale supports that effort.
“I agree with that philosophy,” said Hale, noting he is pleased with how the Dibrell administration and staff are dealing with the situation. “They’re handling it in a very professional way and I think they’re putting their best foot forward to make sure the educational program is not interrupted. They’re maintaining the best program possible within the building and I think it’s good to stay in the building and not have to farm students out to other places.”
Hale said no one could have predicted the events that led to the current situation.
“It was almost like what people call the perfect storm,” Hale said. “The contract was late being approved and then all the bad weather has put it behind. I guess it’s lucky they were able to get the old part of the building ready in time to have school.”
As it was, fire marshal approval came right down to the wire, only getting the official OK a few days before registration.
“The fire marshal has really worked with us,” Bost said. “He’s been great.”
For some of the students, the situation has resulted in a bit of a holiday from the typical classroom. Dee Dee Holmes’ seventh-grade reading class has migrated outdoors from a curtained-off section in the old building. Whenever she can, Holmes is holding class in the covered pavilion on the school’s playground built by the school’s PTO. The picnic tables make great desks and students seem to enjoy the fresh air and natural surroundings.
“They love it,” said Holmes. “As long as the weather holds out we’ll do just fine.”
Bost says the school hopes to get a further temporary certificate of occupancy once the new cafeteria in the expansion is completed so students can get back to regular meals, something which would also free up some much-needed space in the old building.
But even with all the extra work and creative scheduling required to hold classes and meals this way, Bost says everyone feels once the new facility is completed it will be worth the wait, and the effort.
“It’s going to be great,” Bost said. “We’ll have one of the best schools around I think and it’s going to be great for the students and staff. We’re really looking forward to that.”