“Find” and “discover” are synonyms. But “discover,” as Silver Fork sixth grader Jerret Schlosser is quick to point out during an interactive lesson, means to become aware of something new. And as we tour through the newly remodeled Silver Fork School, there are discoveries everywhere.
This summer, about 30 seconds after the last Silver Fork student left school in May, construction crews moved in. “The kids left at noon on the last day of school, and by the time I left at 1:15, the two bathrooms and kitchen were already gutted,” said Denise Lambert, one of two teachers at Silver Fork, which is located off Highway 50 across from Strawberry.
“There were 12 to 14 workers here every day, all summer,” said Kevin Monsma, superintendent for both Pollock Pines and Silver Fork School districts.
A $500,000 Hardship Grant, a $125,000 modernization grant from the state and some reserve funds from Silver Fork School District transformed the one room schoolhouse into a state-of-the-art, energy efficient, ADA accessible learning environment. The 10 students, two teachers and one aide at the kindergarten through 8th grade school are thrilled with the changes.
Some things, like the reroofing, newly paved parking lot and apron around the school, the resurfaced and paved basketball court and the ADA modifications were part of the original plan. Others, like the new furniture and the interactive instructional technology are exciting surprises.
“I was at an instructional technology workshop and the OnPoint representative said he worked with small districts as small as 60 students. He said he would give an interactive instructional system to anyone with a smaller school district,” said Monsma.”When I told him we had 14 students, he had to come out and see for himself. Then OnPoint decided to give us a system for each of our classrooms.”
The interactive systems include the Ladybug, a wireless document camera; an interactive MimeoBoard white board, student responders, teacher’s computer link and an interactive pad that allows different students to scribe answers on the white board. “Silver Fork is now as technologically advanced as any other school; better than some,” said Monsma.
The new technology fits right in with the clean, modern look of the new counters, matching cabinets and curved student desks on casters that can be moved into a variety of seating configurations. Computers, recent donations not needing to be replaced, are neatly lined up at a computer station along one wall, one for each student.
“When the furniture arrived , the kids helped unpack and they all wanted to be part of the assembling, ” said Monsma. “Each one had a job to do — fitting in screws, screwing a piece together, sitting on the chairs to set the chair height.”
The school, built in the 1950s, has two separate classrooms now instead of one large classroom with movable walls. This has allowed a different teaching configuration. “I used to have to move books and heavy equipment from one room to the other,” said Lambert who taught music, math and science to the upper grade students in one of the rooms and then moved to the other room to teach the primary students. Now, the students move and Lambert’s room is set up permanently with new tables for science experiments and math, science and music displays on the tackable walls.
Double paned windows, new carpeting and an upgraded heating system promise warmth during the cold winter months and, with separate thermostats, both classrooms can be comfortable, unlike the previous single thermostat days when one room was freezing and the other was too warm.
The teacher’s office and copy room, currently employed as the community Haunted House, was efficiently reconfigured with a new door and window and they sport a new copier, furniture and an alarm system with light sensors. ADA compliant steps, ramp and railings created a new entrance to the freshly repainted little red schoolhouse.
The school has a new lead teacher as well. Sharon McGaughey replaced Kaye Cover who retired after 15 years at Silver Fork. “Ever since I read ‘Christy’ by Catherine Marshall in the seventh grade, I wanted to teach in a one-room schoolhouse,” said McGaughey. “The first time I saw the school, this summer, it was down to bare wood on the floor.”
Former Silver Fork student Kyle McKoy, 24, stopped by with two of McGaughey’s former students to say hello and bring candy for the students. “This school always had plenty to offer, but now it’s got an even more positive, interactive learning environment.”
“I like the responders with the white board, the push-pin walls and the new basketball court,” said 13-year-old Dominik Schlosser. This is the fifth year he and brother Jerrett, 11, have attended Silver Fork.
Hayley McHugh, 11, another Silver Fork veteran, said the new technology, the new textbooks and the new desks were her favorite changes.
“This school is their social hub. They all play together with older kids looking out for the younger ones,” said Monsma.”Probably there aren’t too many eighth graders that play four square, but they do here.”
The total cost of architectural design, construction, new furniture and equipment was $770,000. “We only get one chance at this, so we spent the money,” said Monsma. “It’s a great little place to come to school. You fall in love with the school and you fall in love with the kids.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530-344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @WSchultzMtDemo.