NEW MANCHESTER - Oak Glen High School students will soon be learning about the physical science of fume hoods, eye-wash stations and instantaneous shut-offs.
For years, Oak Glen students have labored in science labs that lacked the latest in safety equipment, furnishings and technology. But that's about to change with a project that will construct state-of-the-art science labs at Oak Glen and Weir High schools.
The renovation work is being funded by the $37 million bond levy passed by voters in 2010. Expected to be bid later this month or in early March, the project is the last to be paid for with the bond call money.
Oak Glen High School students (from left) Ireland Fruehan, 16, Shayni Vega, 17, and Abbi Sayre, 17, measure some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in the chemistry lab on Friday. The school’s three science labs are getting a major overhaul this year thanks to the $37 million bond levy passed by voters in 2010. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
Oak Glen chemistry teacher Michelle Turner consulted with the project architects and, in turn, asked her colleagues what they wanted in the way of improvements.
"I asked the teachers ... what would be their dream location to teach in," Turner said. "The main priority for me was getting (students) new lab stations and being able to go around without seeing only the backs of their heads."
One of the biggest complaints about the current science labs' layout is the fact that the stations are built into the perimeter of the classrooms, making it difficult for teachers to interact with students, Turner said.
The new arrangement will have the stations built as "islands" in the center of the rooms and will include new cabinets, lights and sinks. What's more, physics students will sit at tables instead of desks, making it easier for them to work in teams.
"With islands, there will be two students on each side, and you can walk around and talk to them. It's going to be much more accessible," Turner said.
In addition to new, modern work stations, science classrooms will get a full complement of the latest safety features - fume hoods for the removal of noxious gases, eye-wash stations and showers, and an instantaneous gas shut-off capability, Turner said. Classrooms also will get upgraded electrical service to facilitate easier computer usage.
"Now, if too many appliances are being used at one time, we trip a breaker," said Oak Glen chemistry teacher Diane Bowers.
At Oak Glen, the project will incorporate the three existing science labs and the freshman science classroom, which will be outfitted with lab equipment, plumbing and furnishings, Turner said. At Weir High, the project will involve the construction of a state-of-the-art science lab in G building.
Currently, freshmen at Oak Glen have science lab space "about the size of my desk," said Principal Barbara Logue, who describes the new plan as "student-friendly and teacher-friendly. ... There'll be room for every student to go to a lab area and work."
Logue said West Virginia students are required to take four sciences, including three lab sciences, in order to graduate. Among the sciences offered at Oak Glen are biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, human anatomy, physical science, earth science and physics.
Logue said the new science labs will be the latest in a series of physical improvements to the high school in the last few years, including new heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, new exterior doors and entryways, new windows, the Multi-Sports Complex and the Field of Dreams.
Along with new science labs, the last bond call project to be bid will result in the renovation of all restrooms at Oak Glen and Weir High and the renovation of the Milton Weinberg theater at Weir High. Restrooms will be made handicapped accessible, and the theater's seats, floor and stage will be refurbished, said Ron Blatt, project manager for Project and Construction Services Inc. of Wheeling.
"The goal is to get as much done as possible during the summer recess," Blatt said.