What you see above are a series of before and during construction pictures from Roosevelt High School science labs 013 and 108. Due to the generous support of the citizens of the city of Saint Louis, a bond issue was passed in August of 2010 called Proposistion S . The Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS) district received a large sum of money it could then use for capital (read: remodeling, renovating, and redevelopment) projects throughout its’ schools. Major projects have since been undertaken including adding Early Childhood Education Centers (ECE) to all of the comprehensive high schools, ensuring every elementary school has a new playground, completing asbestos abatement at all schools, updating cafeterias across the district to ensure more nutritious food is served, in addition to many other critical items chosen by the superintendent and his cabinet for attention.
The part of the Prop S (as it is commonly referred to around the city) package of projects that most appealed to me was the line item to outfit every high school with a fully functioning multi-purpose science laboratory. Large high schools, like Roosevelt, were to receive two labs! This sent me through the roof with happiness as there was nothing more frustrating then trying to teach chemistry and AP chemistry in a classroom that did not have functioning gas, water, HVAC or electric systems, not to mention a lack of the required safety equipment (e.g. safety shower, fume hood, eye wash) the National Science Teachers Association and state Board of Education recommend in all science labs.
Throughout last year I watched as multiple architecture firms were called into schools to take measurements and get designs together for submission to the Special Administrative Board, the governing body of the district, for approval. I was even asked to attend the charett (read: design meeting where architects ask for input on their designs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charrette) the district held for all the different science lab designs for the multiple high schools in SLPS. It was awe-inspiring to see blueprints covering the walls of the main board room at the district headquarters and speak to designers and district officials about what my school needed and how this new lab would be integrated into the teaching and learning of science at the high school level.
At the end of last school year, the science teachers and I spent time cleaning out the chosen rooms in an effort to prepare them for construction. We even held a community clean-up day at Roosevelt to help get them ready. Then, in early November, the demolition began! It has been so wonderful to see how hard the construction teams are working! As you can see in the pictures, plumbing, gas, HVAC and electrical work is completed or in progress. Science labs have many different systems to prepare! Most recently, workers have completed putting up drywall and are working on painting (pictures forthcoming). They will be installing fume hoods, a necessary safety feature for chemical storage, and new lab benches in the future. The contractors work second shift, so as I am leaving work, they are just getting started. Project completion I’ve been told is sometime in March, just in time for a final science unit potentially integrating a science fair for the school. I’ll let you know the dates for public viewing, keep reading!
The ECE Center has been slightly delayed at Roosevelt for reasons unknown but after seeing how quickly the science labs project has progressed, I’m confident that by the start of next school year it will be ready to support our student parents. I have since learned about ECE requirements and Head Start certification and I am impressed with their complexity. I didn’t think any other type of classroom could have more requirements and regulations than a science lab! (different post about how ECE is key to solving achievement gap also forthcoming)
Overall, seeing this one piece of the larger Proposition S package come to fruition has been very inspiring for me. It gives me hope that the district does know what our schools need and it is willing to work deliberately and diligently to ensure those needs are met. Knowing plans are in motion for an on-site mental and physical community-based health clinic sometimes gives me chills. The Saint Louis Public Schools can make a dramatic impact in the lives of children in the city, the outcomes of Proposition S will be the vehicle for that impact!
Yours in education,
The former Dean, now Assistant Principal
PS. School-based update coming soon.