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USD 411: New addition to foster hands-on learning

Staff writer

Even on a student’s day off, eighth grader Christopher Strecker couldn’t resist visiting Goessel High School to volunteer his services moving equipment into the long-awaited new annex building.

“New things get people excited and I felt like I could help speed up production and get things moved in sooner,” Christopher said. “I thought my day would be better spent helping out than playing video games.”

He takes a class in family and consumer sciences from instructor Beth Ratzloff, who was eager to move into her new FACS lab/classroom.

“There have been kids peeking in,” Ratzloff said. “And there’s a lot of excitement.”

She teaches about 50 students in her different classes and is looking forward to doing projects like making play-dough and baking cookies that she couldn’t do in her old classroom.

“I’m so happy to have indoor plumbing and running water again,” Ratzloff said. “It’s a relief to move in.”

Compared to one-and-a-half kitchen units in her old room, her new room will have four kitchen units, one of which is ADA compliant. Like the science lab and the agriculture education lab, it will also have a SMART board.

SMART boards function as “projectors and chalkboards,” superintendent John Fast said, and teachers will be able to plug laptops into SMART boards to enhance lessons.

In the science lab, instructor Donna O’ Neil was happy to have new equipment and an expanded learning space.

“It’s like I’ve been waiting 18 months for Christmas and it’s finally here,” O’Neil said. “The improved ventilation system will allow us to do a lot of chemistry projects we couldn’t do before. We’re also getting Vernier sensors [probes that measure a variety of variables]. Students will be able to gather more accurate data and do more rigorous labs.”

She said last semester was frustrating for students because her old classroom had no working sinks.

“The old classroom had damaged plumbing, there was a waterfall coming out of one of our tables at one point,” she said. “It’s hard to do science projects without sinks.”

Agriculture education and FFA instructor Xana Manche said there is a drastic difference between past and present facilities that will allow her more opportunities to teach.

“In the lab, there’s going to be more room for students to do dissection, plant propagation, plant grafting, and tissue culture projects,” Manche said. “In the new mechanics shop, the open floor plan will help the overall learning experience, because it utilizes the space more efficiently than the old space did.”

A state-of-the-art mechanical hoist will alleviate manual lifting on automotive projects. A massive paint booth with a two-stage air filtering system will keep dirt off student projects and paint particles out of the air. A small engines area and well-vented welding area are also part of the floor plan.

“With our new shop and classroom we should be able to better prepare students to go into industry or on to post-secondary education,” Manche said.

High school principal Scott Boden previously worked at a Hesston school while it went through facility upgrades.

“The difference is just huge in what you can teach students,” Boden said. “There are more opportunities for an enhanced education.”

He said it was better for the project to be “done well and done right verses being done on time and done poorly.”

The west annex will add approximately 13,700 square feet to the school’s footprint.

“It’s going to be a very hands-on wing once we get in here,” Fast said.

The student move-in day, originally planned for this past Tuesday, was set back again.

“We were postponed again,” Fast said. “The fire marshall moved our fire inspection to this Friday. Assuming we pass inspection, the students’ first day will be Monday.”

Fast said there would be multiple open house events for the public in February once everyone is settled in.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2015

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