By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — ELLENBURG CORNERS — The 2012-13 academic year started off without a hitch at Northern Adirondack Central School despite the need for some unconventional classrooms.
Just a few weeks before school was scheduled to begin, the district was notified that construction to High School classrooms in the Middle/High School building would not be completed in time for the students’ return.
So construction crews, along with the district’s own maintenance crews, worked through Labor Day weekend to transform the building’s gymnasium into temporary learning spaces for the students.
“They are makeshift,” said NACS Superintendent Laura Marlow.
“But you know what? They’re doing the trick … and kids are learning.”
The classrooms, which are separated by temporary walls that don’t reach the ceiling, each have desks and computers, and teachers have even decorated the spaces with educational and inspirational materials.
“It’s amazing what you can do with a minimal amount of furniture and a minimal amount of material,” Marlow said.
“It’s quite impressive, actually.”
Global teacher Kevin Perkins has taken advantage of having a disposable classroom by writing, “You will defeat the regents” on one of the walls in black marker.
“It’s all about teaching, just in a different environment,” he said.
It does get noisy in the gym with several different lessons going on simultaneously, noted Stewart Chase, who teaches English, but “it’s working out fine.”
Students are making the best of the situation, as well.
”It’s not too bad,” said Mikailah Donah, a junior at the school. “The teachers kind of have a positive attitude.”
”Everybody can still learn,” said senior Colby Garrand.
”All the work is always done.”
In addition to the gym, some High School classes are also being held in rooms typically used by Middle School students until permanent settings for the older students can be completed.
Construction in the Middle/High School building is part of the district’s nearly $30 million capital-improvement project, which includes extensive upgrades to both the Middle/High and Elementary School buildings, as well as technology and energy-efficiency improvements, classroom additions and construction of a multi-purpose Middle School gymnasium.
Much of the work was finished, as scheduled, when classes began earlier this month; however, an unexpected need for vermiculite abatement in the Middle/High School delayed the completion of the High School classrooms.
Although vermiculite, an insulation material installed in the building’s exterior walls in the 1970s, is not itself considered a hazardous material, the State Department of Health ruled last spring that all vermiculite should be presumed to contain asbestos and should, therefore, be removed if disturbed.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that, if inhaled, is known to cause a serious lung condition known as asbestosis.
Though air in the Middle/High School tested negative for the presence of asbestos, some vermiculite was disturbed during the construction process, prompting the district to remove the material from the building as a precaution.
Marlow said the vermiculite abatement was safely completed before classes began Sept. 5, and the High School classrooms are now being reconstructed in two sections.
The first section, comprising 12 classrooms, is expected to be ready for use by Oct. 1.
Once this section is complete, enough space will be available to move all classes out of the gym.
The second section, which contains an additional 12 to 14 classrooms, is expected to be reconstructed by Nov. 1.
As a treat for teachers who have been displaced by the renovations, Marlow said, the district has decided to paint the permanent High School classrooms with accent colors, giving the spaces “a nice, fresh facelift.”
Both Marlow and Northern Adirondack Central Business Executive Brian Tousignant gave credit to the district’s faculty and staff for their hard work and willingness to make necessary changes throughout the construction process.
“The staff and faculty have been very supportive of this … and really have been very patient,” Tousignant said.
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