School Board discusses renovations for Twain


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One of Iowa City’s oldest elementary schools is about to get an extreme makeover.

On Tuesday evening, the Iowa City School Board’s Directors Operations Committee began to move forward with plans for upcoming additions and renovations to be made at Twain Elementary, 1355 Deforest Ave.

Construction is expected to start in April 2014 and is estimated to cost $5.8 million.

The original project scope includes new heating and air conditioning, new windows and wall systems, and replacement of the gym lighting.

Twain Principal Mary Bontrager said they often teach in difficult conditions because of some of the school’s outdated systems.

“There are teachers who taught in 100-degree classrooms today, and we did not have one person complain,” she said. “These staff members work their tails off for these kids and they want the best for them.”

Superintendent Steve Murley agreed that the teaching staff at Twain is working hard to fight the heat and that issue needs to be addressed.

“With that kind of the heat, its really hard for the kids to stay focused without air conditioning,” he said. “The kids start to wilt throughout the day. We want to make sure we give the students the proper conditions to learn and grow. This is the first step in the process.”

Shive-Hattery, an Iowa City architecture and engineering design firm, furnished the plans for renovations.

Tandi Dausener, an architect for Shive Hattery, said there were various problem areas in the school that need to be addressed, and it makes more sense to tie the plans into one project versus creating many smaller projects.

Additional ideas for the project include replacement of outdated floorings and ceilings, replacement of deteriorated millwork, and alternative electrical and piping, which would stand in place to the current obsolete systems.

“Lighting doesn’t meet current codes for efficiency, and the water piping in this building tends to clog up,” she said.

Along with the original project scope, plans for restroom upgrades, additional classrooms, a gymnasium, and safety and security upgrades are included in the renovations.

Approximately 12,000 square-feet are expected to be added the roughly 250-student, 23-classroom school.

The proposed layout for the building is designed to create a loop in the courtyard of the school, Dausener said. This allows for the addition of a new small classroom, gymnasium, three restrooms and two kindergarten classrooms.

Twain kindergarten teacher Megan Beuning said having restrooms close to the classroom is important.

“As an outsider, you may not know how important it is to have a bathroom for kindergarteners,” she said. “At the beginning of the year, we’re often teaching the kids how to use the bathrooms, and we can take up to 20 minutes with the bathrooms, because we have to take whole classroom breaks. When you have one near your classroom, I can have one kid use the bathroom while I’m still teaching.”

The loop will also allow for the art room, music room, and gymnasium to all be focused in one area.

School music teacher Becky Fields-Moffitt, who has been teaching her classes in a portable classroom, said she is very excited to have a classroom at the building.

“When [the students] are with me, they don’t go to the bathroom,” she said. “This would be amazing that these kids would able to use the restroom. This is just a great way to improve the education of our kids.”

Twain reading teacher Chris DeNeice said it would be nice to have specialized classrooms in the same area of the school.

“Students will have to go from one end of the building to the other,” she said. “Saving the educational time is crucial.”

Bontrager said she was pleased with the plans and excited to complete the project.

“We want to develop an environment for optimal learning,” she said. “I think our kids deserve a great facility, and that’s what it comes down to. They need a facility that shows them they are important and valued in the community, and that’s what this plan shows.”

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