The fourth floor of George W. Nebinger School used to bustle with energy from sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, but this past Monday, the floor was mostly vacant. With the exception of two carpenters, the emptiness of the hallways made it seem like Thanksgiving break had come a week early.
Currently under construction, four classrooms on the last floor at Nebinger remain student-less. Work is underway to convert three of the classrooms into smart rooms and the remaining space into a science room. Completion is scheduled for March, principal Ralph Burnley said.
Construction on the fourth floor was supposed to begin last year, but nothing ever came of the plans, which have actually been in place for several years as a part of the federal government’s Qualified Zone Academy Bonds program.
QZAB was created in 1997 and put into effect the following year in an attempt to save low-income school districts money while repairing or upgrading classrooms. The School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Educational Technology can assign improvements to schools as long as the district can match 10 percent of the bonds issued by the federal government through a private grant.
More than a decade after QZAB began, it has finally touched down at Nebinger in the form of Promethean boards for the smart classrooms as well as a new science classroom.
As part of the grant, the library – which is without a librarian – will be upgraded.
“In elementary school, and sometimes high school, science is more of a social science than the experimental part,” Burnley said. “There’s no room or capabilities in the regular classroom to study chemical reactions or dissections.”
Though plans aren’t solidified for the science classroom, it will be equipped with gas and electricity for projects. Carpet will mask the current hardwood floors, which are being sanded down and redone for the smart classrooms.
Much like the music program at Nebinger, Burnley said he’d like to add a prep position to provide a science-only teacher. Otherwise, regular classroom teachers will utilize the room without the same expertise offered through a specialized learning experience.
When the classroom modernization project is complete, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will relocate back to the fourth floor.