Feb 12, 2020 12:01 PM

O'Loughlin feels pain of growing enrollment, aging building

Posted Feb 12, 2020 12:01 PM
School board members and guests toured O'Loughlin Elementary School during its meeting Monday.
School board members and guests toured O'Loughlin Elementary School during its meeting Monday.

By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays Post

O'Loughlin Principal Vicki Gile lead a tour of the school Monday for the Hays school board, highlighting infrastructure issues in the building.

O'Loughlin Elementary is nearing its 30th anniversary as an elementary school. However, the building itself is much older. It once served as a Marian High School, a Catholic girls school. 

O'Loughlin Principal Vicki Gile discusses the school's shared space for technology and its library.
O'Loughlin Principal Vicki Gile discusses the school's shared space for technology and its library.

The tour began in the school's library, which Gile noted was once the Catholic school's chapel. The building retains the chapel's stained glass windows. However, after so many years, the windows are leaking.

The school has a small area to the east of the main library that has been carved out for technology instruction. However, Gile noted that space is not ideal. It is small and is partially open to the library. 

Often there are classes in both the library and the technology area at the same time, and the space can get noisy, she said. 

Gile has discussed with Buildings and Grounds Director Rusty Lindsay the possibility of closing off the technology portion of the space and making it a separate classroom area. However, Lindsay said redoing the HVAC to that area may be a problem.

Part of the area that was being used for technology was also taken up by two small offices that were built for the Reading Recovery and Title I teachers, who at one point had a full classroom.

O'Loughlin's enrollment this semester is 387 students — three sections of each grade, kindergarten through fifth. The enrollment last semester was as high as 393, but the school lost some students to transfers out of the district at Christmas break.

"I know they say the capacity of this building is such that we can handle that," Gile said, "but I will go ahead and explain why that is not a real ideal situation for optimum efficiency. Just moving around the building, 387 is really a high amount to have kids going in and out of the hallway at any given time."

As a former Catholic school, O'Loughlin was built in the shape of a cross. The gym, cafeteria and library are all along the west side of that cross. Gile said this hallway often becomes congested as children are passing between classes.

As the school has grown in enrollment, the school has had to expand its lunch service into the gym in addition to its dedicated cafeteria space. 

The orchestra class has outgrown the school's music room. That class is now being conducted on the school's stage in the gym.

Unlike other schools in the district, O'Loughlin has separate dedicated music and art rooms. The teachers at the school also repurposed a work room into a teacher's lounge that they remodeled with volunteer labor.

Board members Tammy Wellbrock and Craig Pallister tour the O'Loughlin art room. O'Loughlin has both a dedicated art room and music room.
Board members Tammy Wellbrock and Craig Pallister tour the O'Loughlin art room. O'Loughlin has both a dedicated art room and music room.

The school is using a tunnel under the gym as a tornado shelter, but only between 200 and 250 students can fit in that space. The rest of the school is spread out across the school in inner rooms with no windows or skylights.

"It is probably not ideal if a tornado comes to locate everyone," Gile said.

O'Loughlin uses this tunnel underneath its gym stage as a tornado shelter. About 200 of the school's 387 students can fit in this space. The rest of the students and staff must shelter in interior rooms throughout the school.
O'Loughlin uses this tunnel underneath its gym stage as a tornado shelter. About 200 of the school's 387 students can fit in this space. The rest of the students and staff must shelter in interior rooms throughout the school.

O'Loughlin has a doorbell system at its entrance, but Gile said it is difficult for the school staff to see who they are buzzing into the building. 

Traffic congestion on Hall Street is still an issue for O'Loughlin. Last week, a vehicle stopped for the school's crosswalk was rear-ended, Gile said.

O'Loughlin has issues with keeping rooms at comfortable temperatures. Rooms on the southwest side of the building tend to be hot becuase of the sunlight streaming in through the windows.

The boiler had a crack that had to be welded last fall.

"We have rooms that are too hot and too cold. It is just really inconsistent," Gile said.

Board member Tammy Wellbrock discusses the HVAC system with Buildings and Grounds Director Rusty Lindsay in the O'Loughlin boiler room during a tour of the building Monday night.
Board member Tammy Wellbrock discusses the HVAC system with Buildings and Grounds Director Rusty Lindsay in the O'Loughlin boiler room during a tour of the building Monday night.

Last year, one of the school's rooms was without heat for a month. The office was also without heat for six weeks.

One room on the southeast side of the school has to constantly keep towels underneath its windows, because they leak.

The teacher for this classroom keeps towels under the windows at all times because the windows leak.
The teacher for this classroom keeps towels under the windows at all times because the windows leak.

A few of the classrooms in O'Loughlin are larger than a typical district classrooms. These rooms were used as the Marian High School library and home economics rooms.

A downside of O'Loughlin being a former girls school is that there are far more girls bathrooms than boys bathrooms in the building. The boys bathroom space is about half of the girls, Gile said.

The teacher in this classroom uses a cafeteria table as flexible seating. Children are encouraged to do hands-on projects and to work collaboratively, said Vicki Gile, O'Loughlin principal.
The teacher in this classroom uses a cafeteria table as flexible seating. Children are encouraged to do hands-on projects and to work collaboratively, said Vicki Gile, O'Loughlin principal.
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Feb 12, 2020 12:01 PM
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