Less than 10 minutes into a tour of Hillview Elementary School, Abby Donnelly said she could hardly wait for Monday, the first day of classes.

“It makes the school feel more happy,” Abby, 8, said of the building addition, taking in the bright colors and lots of windows.

The incoming third-grader and her mother Tera Donnelly got a sneak peek Thursday at the new section of Hillview, which houses Grove City Area School District students in grades two through five.

They were led by Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch and joined by Dr. Constance Nichols, school board president, and Patty Wilson, board vice president.

Excitement could be heard around every corner and down every hallway as staff and faculty members organized their new classrooms and offices.

Construction crews continued painting walls, sawing pieces of wood, and testing the fire alarm – crossing items off of the to-do list that needs to be completed before the first day of school.

The addition features classrooms, a new gym and library, the main office, an outdoor learning space, STEAM lab, and more. The main entrance has been relocated from the front to the back of the school.

Renovations have started on the existing part of the building. Students from Highland Primary Center, which houses kindergarten and first grade, will eventually move to Hillview.

School officials determined that it would be too costly to renovate Highland, which has tentatively been slated for demolition. Grove City YMCA recently approached the district about buying the property to expand its early childhood education program.

The construction project totals $37.6 million, and school leaders are excited to see the plans become a reality.

“The two parts are coming together,” Finch said while standing just inside the main entrance, pointing out the old part of the building down the hall.

He noted that visitors will enter through one set of doors, then be buzzed into the main office to sign in.

The vestibule at the main entrance is connected to a conference room that the PTO and other school groups can use. It has a restroom and kitchenette, but no access to the rest of the building for security purposes, he said.

There are other areas that will operate in the same way for public use, like the gym, library, and media center.

Further into the main entrance, the group noticed that the floor tile had gear-shaped patterns. The “gear” symbol can be found all throughout the building, showing how the facility works like a machine, Finch said.

Heading into the cafeteria, he explained how the kitchen won’t be ready for the beginning of the school year.

Refrigerators, coolers and warmers will be set up, and a variety of hot and cold meals will be coming from the middle school.

“It’ll be a big adjustment,” Mrs. Donnelly said of the new building.

She and Abby liked the shades of yellow, turquoise, purple, red, white and beige decorating the walls, hallways, floors and ceiling fixtures.

“There’s an accent wall in every room,” Finch said of how each grade level is assigned a color.

Rebecca Trinchese, school counselor, was unpacking boxes in her office as the group stopped to check out an area that includes her room, the nurse’s station, and the mail room.

“It’s remarkable, unbelievable,” Trinchese said of the school.

In keeping with the STEAM theme, Finch showed how some of the infrastructure in the ceiling was left exposed to teach students about what it takes to operate a a large building.

The red pipes are for fire protection; gray for air flow; and turquoise for water. He later quizzed Abby, who was able to remember what each color represented.

The building has a second floor and elevator, and there’s a courtyard between the old and new buildings that will include a greenhouse. Playground equipment will soon be installed in another outdoor area.

“This is overwhelming,” Wilson said.

A few renovated spaces in the older part of the building are ready to go, and a temporary wall is being built to keep students away from construction, Finch said.

Abby had fun checking out the new lockers, and she was excited to visit the library, where large gears hang from the ceiling along with lighting in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Her favorite parts of the tour were seeing the new gym, and her classroom. Her teacher this year is Tammy Shaw, and her favorite subject is math.

Each classroom has equipment like a Promethean board – large, touch-screen monitors that connect to the teachers’ computers or tablets.

There are also reading areas, and Finch said the teachers are already enjoying their new rooms and figuring out how to arrange the furniture and supplies.

The STEAM area has filled up with all kinds of equipment, and it’s spread out over several rooms, giving students from different grades a chance to interact, Nichols said.

Katie Stewart, the STEAM coordinator for the elementary school students, said she’s really looking forward to the new school year.

“I’m so excited I don’t even have words,” she said.

The wait has been worth it, said Mrs. Donnelly, who lives in Grove City with her husband Matthew and their two other children, Ben and Chris.

The contractors have been great, said Finch, who also wants to remind parents of the temporary traffic pattern that will be in place at Hillview come Monday.

Because of active construction, no cars may enter or exit West Main Street; that will be designated for bus traffic.

At the end of the school day, buses will exit via Liberty and Main streets. Passenger vehicles must use Liberty.

Staff members will park near the community garden, and that lot will also be used for parents dropping off and picking up students.

The district is providing bus transportation for all Hillview and middle school students, and police and school officials will be outside the school to help direct traffic.

A copy of the new traffic pattern is on the district’s website.

Looking ahead for the rest of the district, Finch said that George Junior Republic is becoming a “trauma-informed school.” Their staff is learning more about recognizing and dealing with trauma in students, and they will train the rest of the district staff.

The elementary schools are making adjustments to their grading systems, which will help students gain a deeper development and understanding of what they’re learning – instead of just focusing on getting an “A.”

Middle school students will see changes to their fourth period, also known as the “intervention” period. That will be time for the students to have more access to teachers and resources, Finch said.

And when Highland closes, the administrative teams at the middle and elementary schools will be reconfigured.

High school students will be following a new hybrid schedule – longer periods with the subjects being offered every other day.

That includes a “lunch and learn” session, when students will have time for things like clubs, activities, and meetings.

Grove City Area School District covers Grove City borough and the townships of Liberty, Pine, Springfield and Wolf Creek.

For more information, call 724-458-6733, visit www.grovecity.k12.pa.us or check out the district’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

This article was published in the Aug. 24 edition of Allied News.

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