DeKALB – Andria Mitchell, the principal of Tyler Elementary School, 1021 Alden Circle in DeKalb, is excited for the first day of school.
“I can’t wait for school to begin,” Mitchell said last week. “The students will be amazed and they will be bursting at the seams with excitement.”
On Wednesday, the 260 students of Tyler returned to begin a new school year in an entirely renovated school building.
“Nothing stayed from the old school building,” Mitchell said. “The entire interior was gutted and revamped. ...Walls were demolished, asbestos was removed, and all of the floor tiles and windows are completely new. Everything is completed changed, including the heating and air, electrical system, and a secure entryway on all of our doors. We now have doors and real walls.”
Tyler Elementary School was built in 1969, and was the last operational elementary school in DeKalb School District 428 to be renovated. The school was constructed with an open concept design, with no walls to separate classrooms or offices. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, some interior walls were added, but the floor plan was still unusually open.
“I remember being a fifth grader sitting in my classroom, and I could hear my younger brother’s voice as he was coming in from recess,” kindergarten teacher Cate Cardella said. Cardella attended Tyler from kindergarten through fifth grade, and her mother was one of the original teachers at the school when it opened in 1969. “Now, we can close the door and be as loud or quiet as we want. Nobody has to hear us singing the morning calendar. We have the freedom to do that now. ...Now we have an amazing building.The possibilities are endless.”
Mitchell said her office last year shared a partial wall with the music room, and during band practice, the drums would shake her desk and it was difficult for her to hear callers on the phone.
“Now there is a separate music room, and it has lots of space,” she said. “There’s room for the students to sit down while playing the drums instead of standing in a circle.”
The $3.5 million renovation began during the last week of the 2013-2014 school year, when furniture was moved out of the building. Mitchell said that the school’s building and grounds crew moved everything out of the building in less than 48 hours. Faculty and staff moved back in just last week, working to get everything ready in time for students’ return on Wednesday.
“The renovation’s been needed for a long time,” office assistant Mary Anderson said. “At one time, they were thinking of closing the school. We’re glad they didn’t. It keeps the kids together in their neighborhood and their community.”
Mitchell helped make decisions about classroom placement and the school’s overall design. She helped choose floor and ceiling tiles and paint colors. She said that she selected neutral tones that will withstand the changing fashions and trends of time.
“You never know how things will change,” Mitchell said. “I picked welcoming, soothing colors that will remain classic over time. ...It was important to me to have a say in the renovation project. I know that this is where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing. No matter what principals or teachers come next, I was a part of this renovation project.”
With the renovation complete and teachers putting the finishing decorating touches to their classrooms, Tyler Elementary School is ready for the new school year.
“It’s not just the space that’s great for the teachers and students,” Mitchell said. “It is an outward vision of our school’s pride. Now the building matches how we feel about Tyler. Our kids had such pride of being Tyler Tigers. Now the building shows that.”