School upgrades excite students

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 25, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

NORCO – Administrators of the St. Charles Parish School District recently showed off completed renovations to Norco Elementary School and R.J. Vial Elementary.
The work was funded by a $45 million bond issue that parish residents voted on last April to continue increasing the quality of the district’s facilities and reduce the amount of portables in use. Both projects took about 65 days to complete.
John Rome Jr., the executive director of physical plant services, explained the changes made to Norco Elementary, saying they were more like a “facelift” to the school’s dated interior. The work was completed by Campo Designs Architects of Destrehan, and Dynamic Constructors LLC of Metairie for a total of $716, 455.60.
Rome said the hallways of the school once included glass vent windows that could
be opened and closed as needed, in lieu
of air conditioning.
The contractors removed these leftovers, encased the exposed AC piping from the existing system and added ceramic tile flooring to the hallways. Paneled walls were knocked down and replaced with sheetrock, which would allow for convenient data outlets. Rome said the electrical wiring was also redone and the ceiling grid replaced. Carpet squares were added to both classrooms and the library, and cabinets were refaced.
Most importantly, a centralized digital
clock system was also added.
“When I first walked in, I felt like I was in a corporate office. It was gorgeous. It feels fresh, it smells fresh. I feel like I’m in a brand new building,” said literacy educator Lynn Rochelle of the changes to Norco Elementary.
Rochelle said her fourth-grade students noticed the changes and commented on how different her classroom looked with its cool-tone color scheme and new carpeting.
R.J. Vial received more extensive changes. The school featured an open concept design during the ’70s, when classes where taught in a central horseshoe-shaped area with no division. Rome said the design didn’t quite work for the current student body. Teachers were forced to create “walls” with curtains but found the noise of other classrooms distracting.
Contractors built walls and hallways in the horseshoe area. The renovations added 14 large classrooms, four medium-sized and four small classrooms for the school. The school’s air conditioning system was also replaced, giving each classroom a separate thermostat. In addition, the classrooms now have a three-way lighting system that will allow instructors to turn off sections of lighting while using projectors or smart boards. The lights turn off automatically with the help of motion sensors, to save energy. The work was completed by Pintail Contracting Services LLC of Des Allemands and Three Fold Consultants LLC of New Orleans for approximately $1.1 million.
“They were most excited about those little hallways. They’re walking around speechless,” said Principal Jackie Sperier, who said her students had to adjust to the idea of having actual walls. Sperier said the
students were allowed find their classrooms by themselves during the school’s open house to get a general feel
for the new layout.
“It’s just beautiful. The contractors did an excellent job and it’s been a wonderful experience.”