Ventura County’s newest Hi-Tech Harrington Elementary School Ribbon Cutting

By George Miller

HarringtonSchoolLogo

The new Norma Harrington Elementary School is open for business, as was announced at this 1-21-16 event.  Actually, teachers, conscripted relatives (including this reporter) and staff moved their stuff into the new building in December then classes started right after the Christmas holiday shutdown. But this was the official opening.

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Oxnard Unified School District Supt. Cesar Morales announces as (L-R foreground): Board Member and ex-Principal Debra Cordes, two students: Matthew Albavera & Ramon Naranjo, (Background L-R):Board Member Al Duff Sr., Principal Luis Ramirez and Board Member Ernest “Mo” Morrison were in attendance. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Why a new school?  It would cost more to upgrade the 60 year-old school to the latest safety, energy, technology, etc. standards than building  a new one and it would have still been a very old facility. The school district and project managers collaborated to design, then build this school, which borrowed a lot of its design from a recent project in LA, saving the district/taxpayers a substantial amount. The architect was Dougherty + Dougherty.

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Harrington Elementary Principal Luis Ramirez speaks to students and media in outdoor assembly area at ribbon-cutting ceremony, 1-21-16. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us.

This differs from the dingy old prison-like schools I attended  over a century ago. This one is much more open, bright, airy, flexible, than the old days. It’s not just the building that is different, but the technology, equipment, furniture, even how they teach there.

Advertisement- 740 South B Street, Oxnard, (805) 486-6878

Advertisement- 740 South B Street, Oxnard, (805) 486-6878

Because they were able to use the same 16 acre campus that the old school was/still is on, they were able to save even more money. We were told that the project cost $22 million, which sounds like a lot, but we have heard far higher figures for other projects.  In addition to this project, there are two more district schools in the pipeline, plus expansions/upgrades to some other schools, financed by the $90 million Measure “R” bond issue.

 

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Students in new Harrington Elementary playground, while old facility is demolished. Photo: George Miller, CitizensJournal.us

Kristin Cumins, a Harrington kindergarten teacher, told us that district/school management and the board have offered tremendous support to make this happen and have provided what was needed.  When asked about problems, she thought that lack of security fencing, computer systems problems, etc. were only “temporary construction bugs.” She said the hi-tech pie-shaped desks are “very different.”  There’s not as much storage room in them, but books aren’t needed as much with so much online now. She said that the students aren’t fully up to speed on the iPads yet.

According to Public School Review, there are about 634 students in the school, with a student-teacher ratio of 25 for the lower grades. Those odds are somewhat improved by the presence of teaching aides in many of the classrooms.

KADYTV

Event video by kadytv

 

The Technology

Harrington is now fully into the computer age. Each classroom (and some special purpose rooms) is now equipped with a network control box, 3 – 60” flat panel monitors, iPads, wireless keyboard, overhead projector and connectivity to see/send remote presentations from anywhere on the Internet. All this can be recorded, stored, given to students to take home, etc. It’s nothing you can’t buy for home, but schools have taken a bit longer to get all this technology. A couple of teachers we know missed their favored electronic “Promethian Boards” which featured touch screen operation. But they are now learning the advantages of student interaction via iPads and using their teachers’ wireless keyboard/trackpads.

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Staffers like Ricky Leon of Oxnard School Dist. Tech Services keep the schools new technology operating. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Every student now has an Apple iPad tablet and a suite of software to help enable them to have an enhanced educational experience. So, the kids get formal training and experience with computers at a very early age. Of course, many students already have their own or use parents’ computers and cell phones at home. We were told that some of the kids actually provide technical advice to the school.  But the school and district also have technical people to keep the sophisticated network and equipment running while the kids are in the playground or learning. 

We were treated to a classroom presentation/demo and overall facility tour by project adminstration people Jeremy D. Cogan and Patricia Rafael of Caldwell, Flores, Winters, inc., who showed us a typical classroom, with the aforementioned computers, screens and network, which they demonstrated for us, showing regular operation, showing online presentations, using educational software and simulating student interaction.

They also bragged about the ergonomic German chairs, which are designed to reduce injuries, maximize comfort and encourage motion while seated, to help maintain student engagement.  The chairs, like everything in the classroom except people, are on wheels, to facilitate flexible layout reconfiguration for various activities, or just for variety. While walking around the school and peering into classrooms, we saw a dizzying variety of layouts, based on teachers’ preferences, or what the classes were doing. The unusual pie-shaped desks, which are also on wheels (all wheels lock) are designed to take up as little space as possible, while accommodating students’ educational needs and allowing flexible cluster-style configurations. We were told that the Common Core “State” Standards (CCSS) encourage collaborative learning and that the furniture supports that. Some classrooms also have floor pads, which the students sit on in groups (see 1st grade classroom two photos down, below).

We’ll leave it for teachers, students and management to comment on how well this all works,

 

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Harrington School’s new hi-tech chairs, desks, storage cabinets,. all mobile. Photo George Miller/CitizensJournal.us.

 

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A 1st grade Harrington class. Teacher Carol Miller tells us that this instructional approach with students sitting together comfortably seems to work quite well. She changes format for variety. Note large flat panel screens, white boards on every wall. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

 

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Harrington 3rd grade teacher Amanda Dempsey’s new classroom, in operation, 1-21-16. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Even the library (below), in a separate  building across the courtyard and outdoor assembly area, is high tech. It is designed to be bright, open and airy and has a variety of paper/ electronic books and other resources available. We were told that resource sharing with other schools and public libraries will be available.

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Harrington Elementary School Library. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Unlike schools that have separate gyms, cafeterias and assembly areas, Harrington just has one big common room, which can be reconfigured to do any of those. But outdoor areas can be used, too.

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There was an earlier ribbon-cutting for neighbors and friends on January 16 ….

Norma Harrington Elementary Community Ribbon Cutting
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New Harrington Elementary School, street view. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

More ribbon cutting day PHOTOS from  Dougherty + Dougherty, architects

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George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard

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