New Shady Lane school greeted with open arms

 Messenger photos by Sandi Latimer
A new Shady Lane Elementary School has opened, and educators are instilling a sense of pride among students in their updated building, as well as making use of technology upgrades.
Shady Lane Principal Gail Burris checks the work of a student in the fourth grade classroom of Bev Timmer (in the background). Burris welcomed 358 students to the new school that opened in August.

Students at Shady Lane Elementary School walk with their arms folded in front of them.

"Give yourself a hug," Principal Gail Burris tells a student, who quickly folds his arms in front of him.

Her advice could be a lesson in self esteem but she offers another suggestion.

"It’s the newness," she said of the building staff and more than 350 students from kindergarten through fifth-grade moved into at the start of this school year. "That way they won’t be tempted to touch the clean bright walls."

Shady Lane is one of 14 schools being built through the first phase of the last bond issue that Columbus voters approved.

The newness is only one of the things that Burris likes.

Technology is at the top of her list. Every classroom has a large television and it is hooked up so teachers can augment their instruction with lessons found on the VCR and DVD and can do Power Point presentations and overhead projections.

"Each classroom has five desktop computers," she said proudly. "And we have laptops. It all helps teachers be flexible in the classroom."

She also likes the small tutoring rooms between two classrooms.

"You can work one on one or with small groups," said Burris, who has been principal at Shady Lane for seven years.  In the old building, "we used to tutor in the corner, in the hallways, in the closet, whatever was available."

These small rooms have large windows so the instructor can keep an eye on what is going on in the regular classroom.

Security is another important factor that pleases Burris. The main office has glass walls that make it easy to see who is ringing the bell at the front door.

"The kids feel safe and the parents are assured their children are safe," Burris said.

Her students are just as pleased as she is with the new building, completed at a cost of $7 million.

"The first day they were wide-eyes and I heard a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’ The students were hushed, but you could see them mouth the word ‘Wow!‚" she said.

When ground was broken in the spring of 2006, students learned they would have a separate room to eat breakfast and lunch rather than eating in the gymnasium.

Here in the new building, located between the old Shady Lane and Sherwood Middle School, there is a combination dining room and auditorium. Lunches are prepared at a central kitchen and brought to the school where they are heated before they are served.

The stage at one side of the room has a door in back that leads to the music room. Tables convert to benches for seating for the programs or meetings, Burris said.

The cafetorium, media room, office and school nurse are all located in the front of the building that fronts onto Shady Lane.

Classrooms are in the two wings in back. Those sections can be closed off when the public is using the front part. That way any learning taking place in the back will not be disturbed.

Having a separate place to eat and a place to play is welcome news to the physical education teacher, according to Burris.

"The phys-ed teacher can concentrate on phys-ed and not have to clear the area to set up for lunch," the principal explained. "She can use her time wisely. And we don’t have to cancel phys-ed for special gatherings."

The kindergarten students have their own bathroom in the classroom, and they have a fenced in playground right outside the door.

These are some of the features that are attractive not only to the staff and students, but to the parents and community as well.

"Quite a few of the parents brought their children to school the first day," said Burris, who added that she had been working for a couple of years to strengthen parental involvement.

And the building has attracted the attention of people from the neighborhood who have no connection to the school.

A standing room only crowd greeted Burris at the recent open house and some were neighbors.

"I talked with three elderly couples who have lived across the street since before the old school was built," Burris said. "They told me how excited they were about this building. The community is coming together."

This year Shady Lane added 50 students, picking up most of them from the overcrowded conditions down the street at Woodcrest Elementary School. That meant an addition of three teachers.

The school they moved out of, built in 1956, is now being used for swing space for Oakmont School during its building project which is to be completed in December of 2008. It will ultimately be demolished and that area turned into green space, Burris said.

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