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New school has Pineville smiling

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

For years, Pineville Elementary School’s building has failed to meet the needs of the people inside.

While the school’s mascot is the “Smilers,” the building was dark and dreary. And while parents praised teachers for being innovative and dedicated, the school was poorly prepared for the 21st century, lacking wireless Internet and adequate electrical outlets.

But when an estimated 761 students arrive for the first day of school August 26, they will be studying in a brand-new building.

“It really reflects who we are now: bright, opening, welcoming,” said Principal Brian Doerer. “The energy of the community and the building are going to match up.”

Plans for Pineville Elementary have been near the top of CMS’s capital-needs list for a number of years.

It was originally marked for major renovations, but CMS officials found they could replace the building for about the same cost.

The cost of the new school and demolishment was $15.6 million, which comes from the $516 million bond package Mecklenburg County residents approved in 2007.

But the recession caused many bond projects to stall.

“Things mean more to you when you have to wait longer for them,” said Doerer.

The new 84,000-square-foot, two-story elementary school will replace the 1968 single-story building and will have the distinction of being the district’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified school.

A recent trend in construction, LEED certification means that green, sustainable building techniques are incorporated in the way the school is designed, built and operates.

The new Pineville Elementary will have 39 classrooms as well as a reflective roof, low-water-usage urinals and toilets, several bike racks and a system for handling storm water.

The building will also allow for more technology. There will be 31 computers in a computer lab, and each classroom will be equipped with at least three computers, 10 tablets, one printer and a projection system with speakers.

The school will also have a larger gym, tutoring rooms between each classroom, two playgrounds and several additional bathrooms.

“It feels like we won the lottery,” said Cindy Osborne, the school’s PTA president.

Pineville Elementary’s enviroscape, which is a display with a running waterfall and vegetation, will be transplanted from the old school, making it a distinctive feature that no other school in the district has.

“That was huge for our community that we got to keep that,” said Doerer.

First-grade teacher Crystal Anderson said she’s most looking forward to incorporating the new technology into her instruction.

Osborne added that the wireless internet is a “huge advancement,” especially given that nearly half of the school’s students do not have regular Internet access at home.

“Having this ability at school, especially with the tablets, will open up a world of information to our kids,” she said. “They are growing up in a digital world and it is important for them to learn to navigate it and use it to learn and research.”

The old Pineville Elementary will be demolished to make way for athletic fields, although a date hasn’t been announced.

Doerer said that while he’s excited about the new school, he also acknowledged that there’s significant community attachment to the old school.

After all, he said, the building has seen generations of families walk down its hallways. And before that building was there, the Pineville Farm Life School had stood there since 1914.

That’s why Doerer will collect 600 bricks from the old school before it is demolished. He will use them to create a pathway to the transplanted memorial garden as well as to give to community residents and teachers.

Despite the sentimental attachment some people may have to the old school, several teachers and parents said they won’t miss the limited restrooms, faulty air conditioning and smell of mildew that permeated the building.

“Teaching and learning is difficult when the air conditioning or heating is always going haywire,” said Deborah Russell, a third grade teacher. “We were just bursting at the seams in terms of room. Everyone made do – but it will be great to not have that to worry about this year.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; On Twitter: @earriero
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