AES featured in magazine

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 19, 2002

Andalusia-area teachers and students constantly reap the rewards of an educational facility, which combines two schools into one harmonious unit, and a recent article highlights the ingredients that make Andalusia Elementary School a successful recipe.

The article, featured in the August 2002 issue of American School and University, a monthly magazine published by to highlight unique and highly-effective architectural design in schools, emphasizes the significance of the "schools within a school" concept embodied in AES.

The article states that "the school board was operating two elementary schools for approximately 450 students each in existing buildings that were 90 years old and 75 years old. Realizing the cost of duplication of services and programs in the two elementary schools, and the high cost of maintaining these old buildings the school board embarked on a new combined elementary school to accommodate approximately 900 students in grades K-5th."

Walter T. McKee, Jr., AIA, of McKee and Associates, the firm which designed AES, said the design of the school benefits students architecturally, aesthetically and financially.

"I think the big benefit there is it enables the school board to operate a cost effective and efficient large school, while students have the benefit of compartmentalization, small elements in a large school," McKee said. "The building itself can serve as a learning experience as well as a place to house education."

The article also states that "pride in local community emphasized by the school environment can encourage students to invest in the local area, which is important to local businesses and municipalities."

The former buildings which housed elementary education in Andalusia, East Three Notch and Church Street, are now combined under one central location. Teachers who hale from both former educational institutions praise the improvements made by combining both schools in a new facility.

Bonnie Ryan, a first grade teacher at AES, taught children at Church Street Elementary School for 15 of her 30 years as an educator. She says the improvements are highly noticeable in teachers and students.

"Andalusia has wonderful children," Ryan said. "AES has a building that is clean, safe and free of hazards. It is a place our children deserve to go to school in. It lifts your spirits to come to a place that is so beautiful.

"There were a string of little emergencies that always popped up at the other building (East Three Notch)," she said. "The heating and cooling unit could shut down one day and the toilet could overflow in the boy's bathroom the next day. There was no way to know what would break down. It would just break down. The children had to work around these hazards. It is just a much safer environment for them. An old school cannot really be kept clean. "

Ryan said the new school building is a blessing to both the students and teachers, adding that it is just one of many great things in the store for the future of Andalusia.

"I have never taught in a brand new school building and I have been teaching for 30 years," Ryan said. "I hope the people who read this article know that the teachers and students here really appreciate the new school. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work in such a beautiful environment."

Susan Cravey, a third grade teacher at AES, taught children at East Three Notch School before moving into the new facility. Cravey has educated the students of Andalusia for 18 years and she says the new facility has helped enhance the educational process inside and outside the classroom.

"We use the live radar on to learn more about our surrounding weather," Cravey said. "We tracked the weather last week through the Internet. We have TV cable and a lot of the upper grades incorporate news programs into their curriculum. We also have a science lab and teacher, Karen Soles, for fourth and fifth grade.

"We all work together as a team instead of having two separate schools," she said. "We share ideas and materials with other teachers. I now have six others professionals to work with in my grade level. We all share the same goals. Through the use of the new Internet connection a lot of teachers use it to take virtual tours. I took a virtual tour through the Smithsonian Institute and Pompeii with my students."

Cravey said combining the two former schools has made the transition from elementary school to middle school easier for the students.

"I think it has brought our community together," Cravey said. "Now everyone goes to the same school and I think that is important. I don't think there is any competitiveness now between schools. A lot of the children at East Three Notch did not know any of the children from Church Street until they got to the middle school."