POCAHONTAS - The 2012-2013 school year marks the end of a journey for the Pomeroy-Palmer school district. As of July 2012, that district is formally a part of the Pocahontas Area School district.
The two school systems had been sharing grades for three years before that, said Superintendent Joe Kramer. Now, there's an elementary building in Pocahontas and Palmer, and grades seven through 12 are all together in the newer building in Pocahontas.
Classes moved into the new Pocahontas facility in March 2010, and a three-story section of the former high school was torn down.
-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
The Elementary School had 55-inch TVs installed in all classrooms this year which teachers can connect to their computers. Here, third-grade teacher Angie Cook helps Allie Anderson, left, Jordan Peterson and Mariah Klemish with math.
"We just finished the final portions over the summer," Kramer said.
The last things completed include the new lobby on the west side of the gym, which will help ensure that the former individual districts who have now incorporated will not be forgotten.
"As a part of the new gym lobby, we're going to be having a TV monitor dedicated to each of the original districts that now make up Pocahontas Area. There would be one for the original Havelock-Plover, one for the original Rolfe, one for the original Pomeroy-Palmer and one for the original Pocahontas," he said.
These will show information on the former buildings, school colors and mascots, and perhaps state titles.
"So the patrons, even though their building may not be there, when they come to the new facility there's still something that shows where Grandma and Grandpa went to school. So that history isn't lost."
The building is working out quite well, Kramer said, and is designed to save energy and tailor to the modern classroom experience.
There are energy recovery units on the roof, he said. All modern buildings must have some fresh air intake as part of their ventilation system, and this system keeps it from losing too much heat in the winter or coolness in the summer.
"There's a very large ceramic wheel, and the wheel spins between the fresh air intake and the air exhaust out of building, so as air passes over the wheel - this time of year it's heating the air up," Kramer said. "It then spins through the air intake. The exhaust air is actually heating the fresh air intake, so we don't lose so much energy."
The lights in many areas automatically dim when sunlight comes in. All the lights turn off at 11 p.m., in case someone forgot before leaving. The bathrooms use Dyson Airblade hand dryers instead of paper towels.
Both sides of the new middle school wing have common areas where students come out to do small group work, Kramer said, in keeping with the new trend toward differentiated instruction. Some of the classrooms are shaped like a fat L instead of the traditional square, also to let kids break up into groups during class.
The teachers have their own offices in a central location, like at a college, so the classrooms can be used eight periods out of the day.
There are also 55-inch TV screens in each room and in the common areas. Not only can teachers plug their laptops into these, but they can be used as an emergency broadcast system. They can be turned on from the office to put out a message.
In another building upgrade, the district recently obtained a grant from the Pocahontas County Foundation to install security cameras in the Pocahontas elementary. Once that is done, all the district's buildings will have cameras with remote access, he said.
The district offered summer lunches in Pomeroy for the first time this summer. The summer lunch program has been active at its Pocahontas site for three years now.
The district began a one-to-one laptop program in previous years. This year, seventh- and eighth-grade students received new Chromebooks to replace their old HP Mini computers. This worked so well, Kramer said, that they have purchased Chromebooks for grades nine through 12 as well.
The Chromebooks move data storage online, and boot much faster, he said.
"They can start with a cold boot and be up and running in about five seconds, where when we're dealing with Microsoft-based products, cold boot would take two to five minutes," Kramer said.
"In the classroom setting, it's a more effective use of time. Teachers can say close your laptops, talk for a minute, then open them back up and they're up and running."