NANTICOKE — They were still spreading topsoil and planting hydrangea outside, and the automatic doors and lights weren’t always quite as responsive as they should be, but Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ron Grevera couldn’t stop smiling as he showed off Luzerne County’s newest school Friday.
“This is the large group instruction area,” Grevera said of an open space full of padded, movable seating boxy enough to double as “fort” walls in a child’s imagination. “They can have lessons here, or bring in an outside speaker, or if a class is misbehaving maybe sit them down to talk.”
The new Kennedy Early Childhood Center gets officially unveiled at a public ribbon cutting Sunday at 2 p.m., but Grevera gave enthusiastic tours Friday, showing off a mix of new addition and old space thoroughly revamped — in most cases, the only clue you’ve entered the older section is the original terrazzo tile flooring.
Each room has the latest technological version of the old chalkboard: Promethean “interactive displays,” giant flat touch-screens with computer capabilities. Rooms have their own sinks that double as drinking fountains. The cafeteria has indentations in the walls where combo seat-table furniture fits when folded, leaving more floor room for other activities.
The building is part of a grade-restructuring that Grevera believes will make it easier for teachers to keep track of — and improve — academic achievement. Previously, K. M. Smith housed kindergarten and first grade, Kennedy Elementary had only second grade, the Elementary Center had grades 3-5, the Education Center had 6-7 and the high school had 8-12. Expanding and renovating Kennedy turned it into a facility for pre-kindergarten through second grade. The Elementary Center remains the same, while eighth grade is moving to the Education Center. K.M. Smith is closed.
“I’ve always been a proponent of the middle school concept,” Grevera said. “It helps you cater better to the needs of adolescents.”
The expansion of Kennedy literally connects it to the Education Center — a former outside wall of the latter is now an inside wall of the former. Sometime in the future, Grevera said, he hopes to create a door between the two.
The Kennedy Early Childhood Center will offer all-day kindergarten and half-day pre-K in two sessions, one morning and one afternoon. The new pre-K section is two rooms stocked full of educational toys and play areas, with a teacher office in between. Bathrooms are part of the deal, sporting low, to-size toilets and sinks.
The renovations took three years from the start of planning to Sunday’s ribbon cutting, and cost $9 million. The district will be getting about $3 million in state reimbursements, and — this is another fact that makes Grevera smile — another $300,000 for making the school LEED (Leading in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.
“All the new material is environmentally friendly,” he said. The building is climate controlled, with lights designed to shut off automatically and efficiency is built into the heating, air conditioning, insulation and plumbing.
And though school doesn’t start until Sept. 4, and workers are still scrambling throughout the building doing final touches, most of the classrooms look invitingly student-ready. One second-grade room had books and folders with student names resting neatly next to a glue stick, eraser and box of crayons on each desk.
Another room had tennis balls on the feet of the little chairs to make it easier for the youngsters to push them around without scuffing the floor.
“The teachers have been in here since July 4,” Grevera said with obvious pride. “They were so eager to get in I had to hold them back.”
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish