By Devin Leith-Yessian
PLAINVILLE — Despite some hallways and classrooms being walled off and a few ceilings with exposed pipes, teachers at Wheeler Elementary School were determined to not let ongoing renovations impact learning.
"We're very lucky at Wheeler that we have a very close family both in and out of Wheeler School. We're going to keep charging,” said Principal Andrew Batchelder. “It's a testament to Wheeler's community that despite these conditions everybody's still smiling, happy and ready to go work.”
The renovate-as-new plan got underway over the summer and includes installing a security vestibule at the main entrance, expanded parking, replacement of 20-year-old roof, new carpets and air conditioning units.
John Procko, who has worked as Wheeler’s custodian for 40 years, said the construction team has been great to work with and he expects the year to go smoothly as they work side by side. Construction areas are walled off from staff and students.
Maintainence staff from across the district came to Wheeler in the weeks before the first day to make sure it was ready for its 300 or so students.
As parents gave hugs and goodbyes, Batchelder asked students to “work hard and be the best leaders of the pack you could possibly be.” One-by-one, lines of students filed into the school, with teachers holding the hands of those who were anxious.
"I think the kids are a little nervous and I think they're excited. A lot more nervous than excited and scared because they don't know what it's going to be like,” Batchelder said. “But as soon as they get into classes and get settled our teachers establish really good routines and a good climate...I think they begin to feel more comfortable.”
The need for the renovations was apparent even on the first day, with Superintendent of Schools Maureen Brummett deciding to dismiss Wheeler early due to the heat. Most of the building lacks air conditioning, leaving teachers to use fans to cool classrooms.”
"For my career and my time here at Wheeler, that was the first time we've had days this hot,” Batchelder said.
When asked what he’s looking forward to over the next few weeks he said, "I'm really excited for the weather to change.”
Change was abound across the school district, with a repaving project for the high school’s parking lot in its final days and a new assistant principal for Linden Street School and the Middle School of Plainville settling in.