At a Winston Churchill Middle School history class in Carmichael, the desks and chairs are on rollers and take seconds to rearrange. The teacher’s station is on rollers. And an iPad mini is poised to wirelessly transmit lessons via two 70-inch, wall-mounted televisions.
These are the accoutrements for redesigned classrooms that within two years will extend to more than a dozen schools destined for improvement or reconstruction in the San Juan Unified School District.
“We’re really just rolling out our next-generation classrooms,” said Brett Mitchell, San Juan’s director of facilities, construction and modernization. Wherever possible, he said, projects going forward will embrace the next-generation philosophy.
Forget entrenched ways, where teachers stand at the head of the class and teach students who remain glued to their chairs. At Churchill, the latest approach calls for dynamic interaction. Classroom walls are shifted. And students are the center of activity, say teachers and students.
“It’s not a stationary teacher on the stage with kids sitting there taking notes,” said Principal Michael Dolan. “The kids are actually doing stuff, which is amazingly exciting.”
Churchill has more than 1,060 students in grades six through eight. Dolan said most are spending at least some of their day in one or more of the nine new classrooms, a media room, computer lab, physical education studio or outdoor learning area.
Jeff Darrow, computer technology teacher, said the computer lab and adjacent studio room gives students much more flexibility.
“There is more room. More room to move. More room for students to go around to different computers and work with their partners. It’s just easier to work, and it’s easier for me to get to students and see what they are doing, to sit next to them and talk to them.”
The school upgrades were completed in time for the spring semester and were financed largely with $7.5 million funds from the 2002 voter-approved Measure J bonds, plus $2.2 million in developer fees.
“We move desks around every single day,” said history teacher Emily Holdaway, who asked her seventh-graders Wednesday to fashion desks and chairs into barriers to fend off invaders. The exercise became the foundation for a discussion on the interdependence of knights, landowners, serfs and the monarchs during the European Middle Ages.
“The idea is that the students are doing most of the work, depending on what kind of lesson we’re doing,” Holdaway said. “Before we were in a portable, so it was a smaller room. It had very little windows. It was dark, closed off. We had access to one whiteboard. We had one TV with technology for Apple TV. That was about it.”
In a nearby classroom, eighth-grader Srushti Naik, 14, was enthusiastic about her English/history class. She liked the idea that the adjoining classrooms are easily combined by opening a center divider.
“If you look at the walls around us, they are actually whiteboard, so we’re able to write on them,” she said. “This adds to the experience because we don’t have to buy many pieces of paper. So we’re helping save the environment.”
She said the space “has a good feel to it. So, it’s really fun when you come into the classroom. It just makes the learning experience more exciting.”
In all, a dozen schools are in line for renovation or construction at a combined cost of $84 million, said the modernization manager Mitchell.
Sylvan Middle School in Citrus Heights is undergoing virtually total reconstruction at the site formerly used as Citrus Heights Elementary. It will be the district’s largest next-generation project at a cost of $20 million to $23 million in Measure N bond funds. It is scheduled to be finished in time for the fall 2016 semester.
Schools also on tap for modernization work in the San Juan Unified School District, much of it financed with Measure N bond funds voters approved in 2012:
Bella Vista High in Fair Oaks – a science wing breaks ground in summer 2016
Rio Americano High in Sacramento – demolition will start in April for a performance and academic center with two classrooms
Greer Elementary, James R. Cowan Fundamental Elementary and Mariemont Elementary, all in Sacramento, and Del Dayo Elementary in Carmichael – construction will start this summer for classrooms to be completed for fall 2016
Thomas Edison Language Institute in Sacramento – construction will start this summer on four next-generation classrooms, bringing the total next-generation classrooms to seven
Sierra Oaks Elementary in Sacramento and Thomas Kelly Elementary in Carmichael – portables will arrive this summer and will be replaced in summer 2017 with next-generation classrooms
El Camino Fundamental High in Sacramento – district trustees approved plans Tuesday for performing arts center
Pasadena Avenue Elementary in Sacramento – work concluded last fall on science lab and classroom
Dyer-Kelly Elementary in Sacramento – library has been renovated and includes next-generation furniture, flat-screen monitors and computers, much of the project was financed through donated labor