When most people think of a science class, they think of large classrooms filled with beakers, measuring scales, microscopes and other tools scientists use.
But for science teachers at Hart Middle School, the problem was never having that type of equipment -- it was not having the classroom or lab space.
"I was in a different room than some of the other science teachers. Some of them did have lab stations, but I didn't," Brian Wigand, a sixth grade science teacher at Hart Middle School and chair of the science department, told the Weekly.
He said the classroom where he taught his class for the last 10 years was so cramped that it only had one sink. If he wanted to get any supplies, he would have to run down the hall into another teacher's room where they would have every teacher's lab supplies and chemicals.
Now, after almost two years of construction, that has all changed.
Ever since last week, science teachers and students began moving into the new science classrooms that were built using funding from the $270 million Measure I1 general obligation bond that voters passed in 2016.
The overall scope of work for the project included an 8,000-square-foot building with six fully modernized rooms equipped with LED lighting, touch-screen televisions and connecting rooms in between each class that serve as lab equipment storage spaces and preparation areas.
During a walkthrough of the new space on March 9, Superintendent David Haglund said that the old classrooms were roughly 800 square feet. Now, each class ranges from 1,040 to 1,120 square feet.
"I was just next door talking to a sixth grade science teacher. I walk inside and he has his classroom and all the tables are pushed up towards the right," Haglund said.
Haglund said that the teacher told him he wasn't used to all the additional space.
"All of a sudden, you have all of these cabinets and all of this room to spread out and you can actually decide what you want to put where," Wigand said. "It's great … it's like moving into a new house or something."
And with that metaphorical move to a new house came a new, commanding energy from the students, according to Wigand.
"I think the students really, really enjoy being in the new rooms and they feel like it's a huge difference," Wigand said. "There's just been such an excitement about it and now that we're here, I think everyone feels really happy to be here and feels really good about it."
The $11.4 million project, which broke ground in April 2021, also included removing the four old portable classrooms originally located on the site to build additional amenities.
In front of the classrooms, the district has a shaded structure and lawn area planned for construction but due to the rain adding the cement has delayed the process, according to Haglund.
Rain had also delayed the original opening timeframe for the classrooms, but the transition for teachers and students was able to begin March 8.
In his State of the District speech on Feb. 28, Haglund said he was thrilled that the project was finally coming to fruition.
"It's exciting to know that our Huskies will finally have adequate science classroom spaces," Haglund said. "When the school was built, the normal size science classroom was not a part of that construction project. So they were in regular-sized classrooms and if you have ever known a science teacher, you know, they have lots of stuff."
"They do lots of labs and those teachers have been so creative for so long. It's going to be exciting to see them spread out a little bit and be able to experience the teaching environment that should have been there all along," he added.
The project also included a back area for teacher parking and a new 300-foot dropoff and pickup lane for cars that was built to help mitigate the traffic impact for local businesses, according to assistant superintendent of business services Ahmad Sheikholeslami.
While there is still some final construction work left to do, Wigand said he's just excited to finally be able to have the space to better connect with his students.
"Even though the rooms are so much bigger, the students actually feel closer because I'm able to actually maneuver around the room and get to all the students. It's not like we're all just packed into this tiny space," he said. "That's huge … just having access to all the students and being able to get to everybody and provide support and assistance."
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