Teachers get excited by the little things: clean whiteboards, lights that dim, easy-to-use curtains and magnets. A new addition at Howe Elementary has both the little and the big things in it.
"You get to see that everything is magnetic; I can't get over it," Howe first-grade teacher Deborah Hunziker said as she showed off her new room, especially the litany of magnetic holders attached to her whiteboard. "Teachers spend most of their careers trying to stick things on surfaces that don't stick."
The new wing extends the main corridor of the building south, offering a mix of old and new. The new space includes four classrooms on each level and houses the school's youngest grades.
Teachers in the new space said they have explained to their students that they get to be the first in the new rooms and that they have to take care of them for future students.
"We have to take care of things, we have to make sure they keep things nice and neat," teacher Meredith Kruger said. "Because we are lucky enough to be in the new room."
Kruger said she is letting her students help decide where things go, so they feel involved and engaged in classroom decisions. The change is also an opportunity to enforce lessons about flexibility.
"This is like when you move into a new house," she said. "The kids are part of this community that is putting it together."
Aside from major schoolwide renovations at Mont Pleasant and Oneida middle schools, Howe received the largest chunk of the $70 million capital project coming to a close. The Howe portion of the project cost around $9 million.
While Howe school, which sits on the edge of the upper Union corridor, was under construction last year, the school was housed at Elmer Avenue School and called Howe West.
The main entrance and school office were also remodeled, signage throughout the school was updated and basic infrastructure like ductwork was completed across the whole school. Workers last week were still making the finishing touches on the school's updated library. A new playground — called "epic" by students on the first day of school — is getting wide use after school too, assistant principal Jefferson Weidman said.
Before last year's redistricting, which restructured schools and altered boundaries, Howe had been housing kindergarten and pre-kindergarten classes. But with the redistricting, the school returned to a full elementary school. The expansion helps the school meet higher enrollment.
Teachers didn't make it into their classrooms until the week before school started and most were still putting the final touches on their rooms. Some small work remained. New projectors needed to be set up and lockers had to be modified for use by younger students.
For the students, however, the new wing was just the home of their new classes. They were most impressed by their teachers' decorations and classroom stuffed animals.
"I like how she decorated it," first-grader Khylee Thompson said of teacher Pam Brumbaugh.
Did Khylee notice anything new in her classroom? "Like everything," she said.