NT building outdoor space for students and teachers

NEW PARIS — Coronavirus relief funds are helping a local district provide outdoor space for students and teachers to use. Work on the project began earlier this month.

“We are creating an outdoor classroom/dining area for kids and teachers to get out and use,” National Trail Superintendent Bob Fischer explained last week.

“Our lunch situation – it’s very tight. We have a lot of kids in a small space. So it was an opportunity for us in the hot weather to be able to stretch out and use some extra dollars due to the need for lunch. ‘get more distance between the kids by creating this dining space,’ he said.

The idea has been discussed for several years, according to Fischer. “Even when I was back as a secondary school principal, we had talked about trying to find ways to create outdoor spaces for children,” he said.

According to Fischer, the students themselves asked if there was a way to create an outdoor space for them to have lunch.

“It was something that was always a topic, but you know, we didn’t really think about it until the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds came in. And part of the ESSER funds is looking at ways to open up space and create more space,” Fischer explained.

“We were trying to figure out how we could have three to six feet between the kids in the dining room, because that was probably our biggest weak spot, our dining room, and then it just came naturally.”

The ground was broken and work on the outer area began Feb. 1, according to Fischer, who said the hope was to have it complete and ready for use by April.

“I posted something on social media about it just as we started, and the response and social media was very positive,” he said.

“The kids are also thrilled,” Fischer said. “And teachers are too, because it will give them a nice place to sit and eat and enjoy the weather outside, and when not in use for lunch, a teacher can come down and use it as a classroom space.”

The space of approximately 30’x30′ will be enough for 14 tables and will be a concrete slab up to the school building. “We know not all of our kids will want to go out, but this will open up a lot more space in our cafeteria for the kids to move around in,” Fischer added. “And it will be open to our seventh and tenth graders because we’ve both been sitting there – you’ll have kids coming out and sitting against the wall as well.”

“There’s a lot we’ll be able to do with it – during proms and dances it will be a great opportunity to use it for photos and alumni groups that come in,” he said. “There is going to be a wooden overhang right now – a latticework overhang. When it’s all done, one of the things we wanted to make sure we did was make it feel like it wasn’t an afterthought, to make it feel like a meaningful part of our building. It will have a pergola look and also provide shade.

The school district keeps the work local by using a local contractor, Prograde. “Darrell (Buckley, owner of Prograde) was very excited to do the project because he has kids in the district,” Fischer said. “He and I have spoken several times. He said it means a lot to him to be able to take this opportunity because it could be something he knows will have a lasting impact on the school district and something he is excited to be a part of.

“It’s 100% funded with ESSER dollars, so we were thrilled about that,” Fischer said. “And this is really our second as a project that we’ve done, because before that we also did our HVAC in high school.”

The Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) is the main source of funding for public elementary and secondary education under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act of March 2020, the CRRSA (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations) law of December 2020 and the ARP (American Rescue Plan) law of March 2021.

Coronavirus relief funds are helping the National Trail Local School District provide outdoor space for students and teachers to use. Work on the project began earlier this month and is expected to be completed in April.

Contact Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow him on Twitter @emowenjr.