MOVING DAY: Teachers get settled, kids tour new Powers school in Amherst

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Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times
A rainbow-colored staircase that leads into the cafeteria has already become one of the new school’s most popular feature features among students.

JASON HAWK
EDITOR

“Welcome to your new school!” Beth Schwartz shouted, throwing her hands in the air.

Kids answered with cheers as they hopped off a line of school buses last Thursday.

Third-graders’ jaws dropped as they got their first up-close look at the new Powers Elementary.

They explored the building for about two hours, learning their way around, sitting at their new desks and seeing where they’ll hang their coats when the $31.5 million building opens Jan. 6.

Construction crews were making last-minute repairs and cleaning the school.

Throughout the building, they were busy fixing dings in walls and removing scuff marks “to make it all look perfect,” said Schwartz.

As students munched on a snack in the cafeteria, workers just a few feet away were replacing water-damaged stage flooring.

An overnight leak in early November caused headaches at the South Lake Street work site. A faucet broke in a second floor sink and sent water cascading out a classroom door, down the main stairwell and into the cafeteria.

Damage wasn’t catastrophic, but enough to delay the date teachers were supposed to start moving into their new rooms.

Unlikely help came Dec. 17 in the form of a boiler breakdown at the old Powers school on Washington Street. The malfunction caused a stressful evacuation, followed by canceled classes the next two days.

The silver lining was that teachers for preschool through second grade suddenly found themselves with a little extra time to pack up their old classrooms and make the mile move across town.

Schwartz said that one teacher whose room was damaged by the flooding walked in last Thursday morning, saw everything fixed and waiting for her arrival, and “started to cry, but they were tears of happiness.”

We talked to others busy unpacking cardboard boxes stuffed with posters and microscopes and planners, rearranging desks and setting up little libraries.

Second grade teacher Michelle Tellier was enjoying the bright colors that filled her new room with cheer.

“This school was built with kids in mind,” she said. “It’s perfect for everything that we need, for how learning is done today. It’s set up for computers and collaboration and openness.”

Tellier previously taught at Harris Elementary, which was torn down to make space for the new school, before moving to Washington Street.

Those buildings were the product of a different time, she said, especially the 67-year-old Powers: “That building fit that era. This building fits a whole new era and a whole new way of teaching.”

Breianne Saylor, another second grade teacher, was basking in the sunlight streaming through her new room’s large windows. “It’s just so welcoming in here,” she said.

Brighter classrooms help kids more focused and alert, which means they learn better, she said.

“When you’re in a better mood, you want to do better,” said Saylor.

Perhaps the biggest job rested in the hands of district maintenance workers.

Under Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Chuck Grimmett, they were responsible for overseeing the logistics of the move.

The halls of the old Powers were crammed with boxes last Thursday, almost impassable. The stockpile slowly thinned as Grimmett’s small army carted the boxes to South Lake Street, a task that required constant runs back and forth in a box truck.

For much more about the new Powers Elementary School, read the Dec. 26 print edition of the Amherst News-Times, included in the Lorain County Community Guide.