How do you move a middle school?
One piece at a time. Whether it’s test tubes, books or cans of fruit mix, the recipe for success is simple if executed over and over again until ready to serve: Pack or box. Pick up. Move onto truck. Unload from truck. Move into hallway. Load onto furniture dolly – or into the hands of a waiting, eager student. Send it on its way to the elevator. Unload.
This McCormick Middle School symphony was performed countless times Friday to begin a historic two-day move from the old digs into the new ones.
“It’s 10 times better than the old McCormick,” said Troy Cole, a ninth-grader hauling boxes Friday to an upstairs classroom in the new building. What’s better? “The classrooms, the front door, the gymnasium, the auditorium, the hallways,” said Cole, one of about 60 students grades eight to 11 scheduled to help with the move on Friday. “I would have loved to have gone to this school.”
District superintendent Dennis Mock was at the helm early Friday morning, cautioning students: “If they’re light boxes, carry them up the stairway to the left. If they’re heavy, use the elevator!” To a waiting student, “Don’t wear yourself out for wrestling tonight – I don’t want the coach yelling at me.”
“If you’re walking around without a box we’ll put you to work,” said a secretary whisking into the main office.
Patti Grieve, a fifth grade science teacher, was digging into her boxes in her new classroom first thing Friday morning. “It’s really exciting and a bit overwhelming,” she said.
“Where do you want me to start?” said Catherine Selzer, a Westwood Elementary second grade teacher. “Here,” Grieve said, brandishing a label maker, what is likely to become the most popular piece of equipment around in the coming days.
Freshmen Ethan Moore and Cory Feron documented the move for their video technology class. “It’s really a nice school,” Moore said, nodding his head appreciatively. “It’s really cool to see everyone working together.”
Seventh grade math teacher Mike Braddock enlisted his wife, Amy, to help transport laptops, a cart, and cords from the old school to the new. “Teachers have slowly been getting ready since last month,” he said. “It’s almost unreal that it’s finally here. It’s exciting, though.”
Maintenance crews have been working steady for two weeks loading and unloading trailers, said Pete Bric, maintenance supervisor.
“It’s been non-stop,” Bric said. They also moved the superintendent, treasurer, secretarial, and guidance offices along with the entire computer server. The superintendent and treasurer will now be relocated to Westwood Elementary.
The new building features cameras galore, air conditioning, high-tech classrooms, a media lab, state-of-the-art science labs, a commercial-grade kitchen, gymnasium with pull-down seating for 463 and a 600-seat performing arts center, slated to open later in December.
Classrooms for younger students are on the main floor, with older students upstairs. Hallways are wide and open; a far cry from the maze-like surroundings of the old McCormick, which was built in 1867-1868 as Union School with additions in 1880, 1916, 1939, and 1954-1955.
“It’s a pretty building,” said Bill Skaggs, general superintendent for the project, who logs about seven miles a day padding about and overseeing construction on the new McCormick Middle School. “Everything is coming together. Teachers are moving things in and out. It’s hectic. Classrooms are being set up. People who have seen the building are all getting excited about moving in and getting classes going.”
It’s also normal to be anxious about the new move – change can be difficult.
“They’re moving from a non-technical school to a technological school and there will be ongoing training as needed,” Skaggs said. “Once they’re in it will take about a month to get settled in.”
Training will cover all aspects and “as they progress they will get more training,” he said. “We don’t just show them the building and walk away.”
Skaggs’ company, Ozanne Construction, is contracted to oversee the asbestos abatement and demolition of the old building through to the “infill of the hole” where old McCormick now stands. Asbestos abatement is expected to take eight to 10 weeks, he said.
Middle school principal Craig Housum said moving is bittersweet.
Even though old McCormick was deemed “one of the worst buildings in the state as far as soundness of the building” goes, there is still a bit of sadness leaving the old behind. “I think the thing I’ll miss the most is the history,” Housum said, noting that the school was named for former student, teacher, coach, principal, and master chemist Roy McCormick. “There’s a lot of staff who grew up and went to school here and they’re feeling nostalgic.”
The name will follow the building and with it, the students and staff.
Transition plans have been discussed for some time. Parents nearly filled the auditorium at a recent informational meeting about the move. They attended with questions, many of which focused on logistics including start times and transportation.
There will now be some students who will walk to school while others will now be bused.
Changes are never easy. “We have purposely kept many things the same,” including arrival and departure times, Housum said.
In addition to the meetings, all parents and caregivers received a map and a copy of the information presented. The information is also being posted on Facebook and the school district website.
Eighth-graders have been attending classes at Wellington High School all year. Now they will have to transition back to being in the middle school with their younger peers.
Housum is reminding the eighth-graders, “You wanted to be the top of the school and now you get to be the grade all the other kids look up to.” The eighth-graders can now truly be viewed as mentors. “They are not the youngest grade in the building anymore,” he said. “They have had a taste of what high school is like and for this particular eighth grade class they have had a taste of making the transition into high school.”
Housum and his staff have made sure to be available for any students who have questions.
“We want to make sure to talk to the kids about their feelings,” he said. “Change is tough, but kids are resilient. It will be an adjustment for them at first, but once they are in the new building they will be happy to be in the new facility.”
Sean Arno, assistant principal at McCormick, organized the students who signed up to help with the move.
All who helped get hours toward their community service graduation requirement, he said.
“There’s a good sense of community here,” he said, noting he had no problem getting kids to volunteer to help with the move. “Buildings are just buildings, but this new building is exciting. The support of the people who put this together is just phenomenal. The kids are really stoked. They are really excited. Tuesday is going to be so nuts. They will be so hyper on Tuesday. It’s just like getting a new present.”
The school will be home to 440 students.
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171.
Photos by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise Troy Cole wheels boxes into place Friday at the new McCormick Middle School during a huge moving day effort on the part of students, teachers, administrators, and other volunteers.