While we all enjoyed the summer break relaxing and spending time with family in the sun and surf, the 55-year old Howard Drive Elementary was busy with significant renovations and improvements.
Now, as school is nearly back in session, the finishing touches are almost complete and there is much to celebrate. “We are so pleased we were part of the first phase of the bond issue,” explained Principal Deanna Dalby, “Howard Drive is blessed that everything that was planned was completed. It’s simply beautiful, like a brand new campus!”
The 1961 school may look familiar from the outside, but the inside is certainly changed. The biggest of those changes are the windows. Gone are the creaky, leaky and downright ugly jalousie windows. In their place are sliding metal-framed thermally-insulated glass windows, screening and hurricane-proof slatted Bermuda shutters.
The windows are not only prettier, but eliminate the need for inside blinds or curtains since the shutters can be partially closed to regulate the amount of light entering the classrooms.
The windows were upgraded to accommodate the second biggest change at the school, completely new air conditioning for every classroom. That’s right, no more window AC units making puddles on the classroom sidewalks. No more breakdowns. No more manual on/off switches. The new highly efficient air conditioning units are wall-mounted and self-contained. They automatically set a schedule based on them learning movement patterns, meaning they’ll know when to turn on and off without any manual intervention.
And, most importantly, they are whisper quiet, meaning quotes like this should be a thing of the past, “The teachers had to turn off the AC when they were speaking so we could hear them. That meant we were sweating most of the time,” said Andrew Feldman, former Howard Drive student. Principal Dalby adds, “The interactions between teacher and student will be enriched since the interruption and distraction caused by our old AC units are now gone.”
All the bathrooms got some form of upgrade or significant change. Classroom bathrooms gained exhaust fans and ADA-compliance, some being expanded in size, and the group bathrooms were completely gutted down to the studs and rebuilt with all new materials. As a former Howard Drive parent, I can’t tell you just how important it was to clean up the dingy old facilities.
The school also upgraded the outdoor hallway lighting system, making early morning and evening school activities safer. The lights will now use sensors to turn on and off automatically for energy efficiency.
The playground even got a large additional set of equipment with new fencing to increase safety. It sits next to the older, but still fully functional playground equipment.
On the technology side, Promethean smart-boards were installed in the remainder of the classrooms and 65 new laptops were added to the arsenal of computers already available at the school.
Principal Dalby beamed, “This campus may be a tradition, but with the upgrades it certainly doesn’t feel like a 55-year old. It feels brand new!”
As a reminder, Howard Drive is adopting the Cambridge program this year and the custom Howard Drive smartphone app is available for free download for both Android and iPhone.
Principal Dalby made sure to tell me she was looking forward to seeing everyone in the Howard Drive family back at school soon!