‘Bringing the two communities together.’ A first look inside Spring Creek Elementary

A look inside State College Area’s newest elementary school

A look inside State College Area School District's Spring Creek Elementary on Aug. 15, 2019. Teachers are starting to move into their classrooms as work continues before the first day of school on Aug. 26.
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A look inside State College Area School District's Spring Creek Elementary on Aug. 15, 2019. Teachers are starting to move into their classrooms as work continues before the first day of school on Aug. 26.

The new Spring Creek Elementary School is almost ready to welcome its first crop of elementary students from the former Lemont and Houserville elementary schools.

“The usability of space in our new building is so much more functional,” said Jason Little, assistant director of Physical Plant for State College Area School District. “It’s the joining of two schools.”

With more than 300 students enrolled, this will be the first time many of them have ever attended a kindergarten-fifth grade school.

All visitors and students will enter the building from the main entrance, which opens up into a foyer that extends into a multi-use cafeteria and auditorium. The first floor, divided into two wings, houses kindergarten and first grade on one side and second and third grade on the other. Fourth and fifth grade classrooms are located on the second floor, with an elevator for accessibility.

Little said the cafeteria and main entryway were purposefully designed as open concept, so that the building feels more connected and the cafeteria/auditorium can host functions that spill out into the hallway. As part of LEED Gold certification attainment and a SCASD board recommendation, he said, all new buildings have more natural light, which is incorporated heavily at Spring Creek.

The auditorium and cafeteria space in the new Spring Creek Elementary School. Abby Drey

The gymnasium is another “big wow factor,” he said, because of its high ceilings, shining wood floors and full basketball court that can also double as a regulation volleyball court.

“It gives us a lot more options as a district to have events at our elementaries,” he said.

The library, too, “is a massive upgrade across all of our facilities, in terms of the space, the design, the natural lighting,” he said.

Brittany Snavely, the Spring Creek librarian, said she is looking forward to being in one place and taking advantage of the open concept design of the library, which looks out onto a grassy, treelined courtyard.

“We planned for this configuration, knowing that the paraprofessional could be sitting here and see everything, whereas before she had her back to the door (and) shelves were hiding where certain people were located,” she said. Now, “she can be there and see me teaching, she can see kids browsing ... see the front door, I just feel like it’s safer and just open.”

Snavely and reading specialist Chad Rockey both used to split their days between Houserville and Lemont elementary schools, which became tiring. Snavely said she used to close each library for half the day while she was working at the other one.

Reading specialist Chad Rockey sets up his new classroom in the Spring Creek Elementary School on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. As a specialist teacher, Rockey used to switch between Lemont Elementary and Houserville Elementary during the day. Abby Drey

She said she’s looking forward to “just being in one space, like I know that I have all the books right here ... just being able to give kids access to all books all the time.”

In the new art room, there is more space and storage, plus a kiln room, Little said. There are two special education classrooms, each with plenty of extra storage, he said.

Another new feature at Spring Creek are the small group instruction rooms located in each wing. They’re “designed to be a breakaway space” for teachers to hold group activities, giving them flexibility, a casual setting and a different layout than a regular classroom, Little said.

Bathrooms are designed with a shared sink area for boys and girls and separate stalls, he said. There are individual and gender neutral single bathrooms throughout the school, mostly for teacher or visitor use, he said.

To streamline visitor, staff and student entrances, everyone enters through the main entrance and visitors must be buzzed in. The bus loop for children is also separated from visitor and staff parking, Little said.

“That’s one of the things we’ve incorporated in all three elementary schools is to try to divide our traffic, and make the sites much ... safer,” he said.

The nurse’s suite is “a pretty substantial upgrade,” said Little, with a full examination room, a large storage room, single restroom and three areas with cots for kids.

District staff, physical plant staff and contractors have been working around the clock to deliver the building on time so teachers can set up and public occupancy will be granted, Little said. There are several areas of Spring Creek that won’t be finished by the first day of school, like topsoil, planting and some sidewalks in the parking lot, he said, but that shouldn’t affect students.

“This school is going to be such a huge benefit from an operational end, bringing the two communities together, the two staffs together, the two schools together, so I feel like that’s going to be huge,” he said.

Sarah Paez covers Centre County communities, government and town and gown relations for the Centre Daily Times. She studied English and Spanish at Cornell University and grew up outside of Washington, D.C.