Building Engagement and Collaboration

The Slice – October 2013: In Our High Schools | In Our Middle Schools | In Our Elementary Schools

This fall, many Palo Alto elementary students returned to school to find new or improved facilities for learning and play. Fairmeadow and Ohlone students are enjoying just-completed classroom buildings and other facility upgrades, while Duveneck is still in the midst of an effort to construct new classrooms and a new library. These projects, which are all funded by the Strong Schools measure passed by over 77 percent of voters in 2008, will bring Palo Alto school facilities up to standard, create enhanced environments for student learning and ease technology integration.

Although PiE does not pay for any facilities projects, these new upgrades will also bolster the implementation of programs funded by PiE in PAUSD elementary schools, including hands on science and Spectra art, and give new flexibility for PiE-funded staff such as teachers’ aides and reading specialists.

Fairmeadow- Newly Completed Construction Builds Community and Excitement for Learning

At Fairmeadow, the school was so excited about its improved facilities that it held a celebratory party for parents, students, staff and the community on October 13 to showcase all the new avenues for learning that are possible as a result of its construction projects.

The centerpiece of Fairmeadow’s rebuilding is a new, two-story classroom building with over 16,000 square feet of instructional space and a clock tower that serves a focal point for the whole campus. Fairmeadow’s library was also expanded, adding new space and updating its technology and infrastructure.

In addition to having new space to learn inside, Fairmeadow students are also fortunate to have remodeled outdoor space and seating, a new kindergarten playground and a lovely natural play area for all grades, along with an improved sports field with better drainage.

Principal Gary Prehn is thrilled at all the possibilities for learning and collaboration that are now available due to the improved facilities at Fairmeadow. “The new building and classroom improvements increase community throughout the school and allow grade level teams to be in close proximity with each other,” he said. “I feel like this is a whole new school, with a new sense of joy, excitement and exploration. All the support from parents—for the construction bond, PiE, and the parcel tax —contributes to student learning and achievement at Fairmeadow.”

Ohlone- New Flex Room Gives Space for Science and Discovery

ElementarySchoolThe Ohlone school community is enjoying the results of a large construction project that included new upper grade classrooms completed and a new flex room.

The new flex room, which includes wide counters, a microscope lab, whiteboards, a smart board, sinks, and secure cabinetry, gives Ohlone’s PiE-funded staff, including reading specialists and science instructors, many new ways to engage students in exciting learning opportunities.

Ohlone’s principal Bill Overton is excited about this improved space and its potential to enhance PiE-funded learning on campus, saying, “This beautiful, sunny flex room gives new options for our hands-on science projects with our partners from the Junior Museum and our farm science teachers, and its wide open entryway provides an ideal gallery for students’ Spectra art projects.”

Ohlone’s farm science teacher, Devin Cormia, who is partly funded by PiE donations, echoed Principal Overton’s enthusiasm about the new flex room. “When rainy days drive students inside, this room will allow us to seamlessly continue the inquiry-based discovery projects that connect with our work outside on the farm,” said Devin. For example, when Ohlone science students study the vascular system of plants, Devin can now bring the children into the flex room to use the 20 permanent microscopes rather than traveling from room to room.

Facilities Upgrades Will Continue to Enhance Learning in PAUSD

School construction can be messy and inconvenient, but as many Palo Alto parents are learning this fall, the results are worth the headaches. As PAUSD continues to allocate funds from the Strong Schools Measure to improve facilities in elementary schools, staff and programs funded by PiE will leverage these new opportunities to enhance student learning, strengthen student-adult relationships and promote engagement across the district.