Whitehall-Coplay School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Steckel is pleased with the progress on the building taking shape on the WCSD campus that will be home to kindergarten and first-grade classes for the 2024-25 school year.
The WCSD campus, located on Mechanicsville Road in proximity to MacArthur Road, contains schools for all grades, K-12.
The new building will keep the name of Clarence M. Gockley Elementary School.
The progress of the construction has gone smoothly, according to Steckel. There was a mild winter, so there were no work stoppages due to the weather. There were also no supply chain issues.
Matt McClarin, project manager, reported this project began at the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses had shut down and supplies were hard to gather.
With this project, there has been smooth sailing because of careful planning, he said. For example, the construction team obtained all of the big-ticket items such as elevators, underground storm pipes, switches and gears in a timely fashion.
The current Gockley building will be used for the district’s central offices, the intermediate unit and pre-K activities and other functions. The district is also considering the creation of an on-site day care for staff and parents and a site for health care opportunities for staff and students.
The long-term vision for the new building was planned by a team of principals, teachers, parents and project managers. The plan was to consider what the needs would be over a 10-year period and how the funds could be most appropriately spent with that in mind.
The building is being constructed with the idea that each student will have access to the same standard facilities with the best educational opportunities available. The classrooms include dedicated small spaces for paraprofessionals to work with children on individual skills, such as reading, math and English as a second language.
The school will be equipped with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab to foster growth and opportunity in this area at a young age. The goal is for each student to have a consistent experience. Steckel said he believes the physical environment and consistency have much to do with how students learn.
Each kindergarten room has its own bathroom. Each first-grade room is equipped with a small room so reading, math and English as a second language learners can receive uninterrupted time to improve these skills in a small group setting.
The impetus for the creation of this building came back in 2017 when the school district had plans to move to a full-day kindergarten. This started with the 2019-20 school year and a need to develop consistent learning with updated technology and freedom from modular classrooms seemed in order.
Many rooms have a partition where the space can be divided for different uses. The multipurpose facility can be used for large gatherings as needed or can be divided as a cafeteria space and a physical education space. The classrooms can be opened up for large faculty meetings and other services as needed.
The library was created with small classrooms in mind for individual learning and a view that is aesthetically pleasing to the senses. The art room is larger for both full class and small group art activities. Again, the view creates an environment conducive to learning,
There is a dedicated team of 40 to 50 individuals working on this project, Steckel said, with the philosophy of giving a consistent education while preparing the building for the future.