With little more than a month to go in the school year, Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School is open and fully functional.
After years of planning, a year of renovation of the then-North Lincoln Hill Elementary and a summer of intense construction, the new school came online in August 2013 for the start of the school year, with classroom spaces completed and only a few of the biggest areas still being built. The gymnasium, auditorium and administrative offices were completed on-schedule, being available when students and staff returned from Christmas vacation.
“It’s been a learning experience,” said Principal Kelly Rees, who was hired as assistant principal in August, then took over the big chair when Linda Kline Shaffer stepped down Oct. 31. She now has done almost everything possible in the building, attending North Lincoln Hill as an elementary student, teaching fifth grade there, and moving up to administration.
Her new assistant principal also has history there. Brian Pelka is another alum, and he keeps his old “Six Million Dollar Man” metal lunchbox on a shelf in his office, a reminder of his start there.
“We have a beautiful facility here. With the end of construction, we are all starting to really utilize all the new spaces,” said Rees.
That is leading educators to look at new options.
“Teachers and administrators are utilizing the building to offer more drama courses with our auditorium, increased science classes with the new labs, and diversified specialty courses that we had not been able to offer in the past,” said Superintendent Gregg Paladina, who said he is pleased with how the project turned out. “Many employees, school board directors, and community members, both past and present, have put tremendous amounts of effort into the project.”
Rees said it isn’t just about being able to offer new things because of the new building. She said teachers actually are being more inspired by the space to think about what they are doing in more creative ways.
“I think the staff is excited about all the opportunities the new building has brought,” she said. “They have access to stuff they didn’t have before.”
That “stuff” includes more opportunity for hands-on education in areas such as science. While the seventh- and eighth-graders have always had access to some lab facilities at the now-closed junior high, there is now a dedicated lab just for fifth- and sixth-graders to experiment with concepts.
But keeping the staff interested staff isn’t the final goal. That enthusiasm has to be infectious.
“We want kids to be excited about learning,” said Rees.