On December 21, 2012, Homer Community Schools held classes for the last time in a building built in the 1940's. The environment which hosted several generations of students, teachers, and memories, transitioned into a new school building, set to open when students return in January, 2013. This article discusses some of the major changes, and illustrates these differences with the attached slideshow.
First, the entrances of the buildings vary. In the old Homer secondary education building, the main entrance led visitors toward the middle school office. The high school office sat tucked upstairs around the corner. The new building features a combined office for both the middle and high school. Besides convenience, this is also a security feature, as after a certain time of day all visitors must enter through the office.
Another contrasting element between the old and new schools are the hallways. In the past, students had to share a locker which they typically left unlocked. This lent itself to frequent thefts or misplaced items. Students would often bump into each other as they attempted to scrape books out of the cramped locker. When students were required to use crutches they would often hop up the stairs to reach their upstairs classes. As students streamed out of classrooms, doors extended into the hallways, also becoming traffic hazards. The new building addresses many of these problems, featuring quads to house most lockers. Each student is assigned their own locker with a combination. The hallways are much wider, too, offering a safer passage between classes. In addition, an elevator now allows handicap accessibility to all parts of the school.
The technology of the former Homer High School classrooms had attempted to keep up with the times, often requiring patchwork ensembles. The common look had an old chalkboard with a white board mounted over it, and a projector screen pulled down over that. Cords draped everywhere as outlets were at a minimum. Students often refused to drink out of the old water fountains as the water usually "tasted funny" and was warm. The new school embeds new technology. Homer Community Schools will now feature an intercom system, digital clocks, many security cameras, secure doors and alarms, sound systems for presentations, and digital projectors with document cameras in every classroom. The larger rooms allow for various seating arrangements. Increased white board surface areas create options for student presentations. The quad area provides an area for group activities or experiments. The laptops and iPads on carts also make increased technology use more accessible for Homer high and middle school students. The new building allows wi-fi access throughout, while the old building prevented the wi-fi signal from working well due to the older style of building materials.
What will happen to the old school building? The school is hosting a massive sale to move on used tables, chairs, doors, and whatever can be removed from the building after the new year. The building will be demolished sometime this spring and to offer additional parking. Meanwhile, the new school has some parking available, and features a separate area for bus drop-offs to allow a safer transition for kids to enter and exit the building away from auto traffic.
While saying goodbye to a structure such as Homer's long-standing landmark is tough for some, a legacy of learning will live on through memories of alumni and in the hearts of current and future students.