Besides everything else going on, there is a large construction project looming on our horizon.
In the background, a team of people have been working hard at getting our construction project off the ground. Jeff Dalton, parent of Sara Grace in 5th grade, and lead architect at Row House Architects, has been preparing the final plans for bidding.
Contractor, Chris Fox, parent of Lily (4th) and Nate (1st), has been generously and courageously acting as construction manager. He has used his practical expertise to think through the plans with us, making sure they meet our needs and budget, and he filed for the permit back in December.
I don’t know what we would have done without these guys, so if you see them say thanks!
Just last week, the city finally turned the permit around, and as soon as they have the names of the general contractor and the subs, we will have a permit. Four contractors are bidding, and their bids are due Thursday. Everyone – keep your fingers crossed, pray, wish, etc.– that the bids will come back within our very specific budget.
The winning contractor will have to start immediately into order to meet our deadline. (Remember, we need to have our new classrooms ready in time for the 2015-16 school year in order to have enough classrooms for everyone next year.)
So what will the next few months be like with a construction project underway?
It will begin with a bang — demolition.
Sometime between March 4 and March 12 an environmental contractor will spend three days removing any materials that contained asbestos or other potentially hazardous materials so that they are removed with the utmost environmental and air quality standards in place – not one particle of friable material is to become air born.
I have never watched this, but in my imagination I see lots of dust-buster style devices sucking every particle of dust up while white-robed technicians remove windows and take dry wall down. ECS has a reputation for being the best and they guarantee the safety of the children and anyone who will be using the building.
It is going to be shocking to have all the downstairs windows out and boarded up! After the environmentally sensitive work is done, the contractor will begin sledge-hammer work, tearing down five structural walls and disposing of materials into huge trash bins. Excavation of the courtyard area will commence, and fill dirt will start piling up.
It’s going to be loud, dirty, and inconvenient…but so satisfying when it is done. There will be days that no one will be allowed in the auditorium, such as when the environmental work is being done downstairs. But for the most part, normal activities will continue right through construction.
Why do we need the extra classroom space so soon?
The big game-changer is the expanded Omega.
The current 8th grade is the last of the small classes from the “old” days of Rainbow. When the current five 8th graders graduate in June, they will be followed by a rising 8th grade class which has 20 students currently, and the rising 7th grade, which also has 20 students.
Therefore, Omega will go from having 25 students this year to having up to 40 students. No longer will Omega be a one homeroom-style classroom. It will require at least two classrooms, and a few smaller rooms available for break out groups, electives, and tutoring.
The original plan was to have 6th grade in the lower level of the community center, but after consideration, the teachers and I realized that it makes more sense for 6th grade to move into the large room that Omega is currently in, and for the New Omega to inhabit the lower level of the community center.
It is going to be exciting to have the whole middle school program on the new campus. The music classroom will be completed during construction. Eventually, a new art room will also be in the lower level.
Of course, expanding Omega means hiring a larger teaching staff.
We will be adding a full time Science teacher, and since there is a shortage of Science teachers nationwide, I am extremely pleased at the number of fantastic Science teachers who are applying for the additional lead teacher position in Omega.
We are also adding a full time teacher assistant to Omega, and we have some wonderful applicants for that as well. Sandra and I are busy reading resumes for several positions. We have already had a couple of prospective teachers demonstrate and complete their interviews. Rainbow is very fortunate to be a place where extraordinary people want to work.
Here is something new in my life: I applied to a doctorate program at Columbia University.
Not because I don’t have enough to do, but because the program is project-based, and the replication of Rainbow is the project I am proposing. It is a very competitive program, and a long-shot that I will be accepted, but if it works out, we will have the resources, wisdom, and creditability of Columbia’s Teachers College behind our school!
If I am accepted, I will have to be on campus in New York for three weeks in the summer, and for eight different weekends throughout the school year (almost one weekend per month) for the next two years. They have called me in for an on-campus interview, so I will be in New York for part of this week. Again, it’s a highly competitive program, and the chances of being accepted are very small, but I thought it was worth a try.
My short personal statement for my application can be read HERE.
It is somewhat personal, but I wanted to share it with you. At the end of the statement I reference a quote by John Dewey: “I believe education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”
Did you know the teachers at Rainbow are working on writing a book?
They are compiling centering techniques and activities into a book that will potentially be called “The Centered Classroom.” Centering is part of the glue that holds our learning community together. Inviting in spirit and sacred space every day, and making that integral to each child’s daily experience is special. Children develop the habit of having a meaningful, daily spiritual practice. Teachers outside of Rainbow have asked how to do centering, so this book is for them.
By the way, centering is open for parents to join.
When I first came to Rainbow it was still a tradition for parents to participate in centering on a regular basis. It is a wonderful way to start your day, so please feel free to stay beyond drop off for centering when you have the chance. It’s not just for kids!
Science Fair was incredible.
Did you get to check it out?! Amazing! Several of the prospective teachers who are applying for the middle school Science position visited Omega during Science fair, including people who had worked at Carolina Day School and Asheville School, and they were exceedingly impressed with the sophistication of our students.
Dance, Drum, Pray on May Day!
Important Date Change: LEAF International is partnering with Rainbow Community School for an awesome global opportunity. In May, we will be hosting an indigenous Costa Rican dancing/drumming group call Proyecto Jirondai from May 4 – May 7, so we are changing our May Day Celebration to May 5, so that they can join us.
I had the honor and good fortune to witness an indigenous spring earth-based celebration when I was in Ecuador, and I know there are some deep similarities in this ritual throughout South America, Central America, and Mexico.
It will be very special having this group with us for May Day. At the end of their residency, the group and several lucky Rainbow students who sign up for the after school special program with Proyecto Jirondai will get to perform with them on stage at LEAF. You will be hearing much more about this groups’ residency. If you want to be a host family, contact Caryn Hanna at 828-768-1826.
Spring is Around the Corner
Spring truly is just around the corner. I hope these cold winter days provided an opportunity to savor the slowness of winter. Winter can be such a trial, but so much growth and learning comes from trials. Soon, your children will be presenting to you at Student Led Conferences. They are young buds, ready to burst forth into blossoming learners and change-makers.