NIANTIC – The first time Anna Lee saw her teacher write on the wall in the new science lab at Sangamon Valley High School, she was shocked.

“I thought, 'What is she doing?'” the high school junior said with a chuckle.

It's perfectly fine to write on these walls, however, because they're covered in white board paint.

“It erases right off,” said Principal Jonathan Field, pointing to the brackets attached to the wall that hold the dry erase markers and erasers. The paint extends all the way into the adjoining classroom.

The new science lab, which opened recently, allows Sangamon Valley students to experiment, as Lee said, “on our level.”

The room once housed the home economics classroom, though that class hasn't been offered for many years. Then it was used as storage or a study hall. Because the room already had gas and water infrastructure that were used for the kitchen appliances, it was relatively simple to repurpose the room.

It is now a a state-of-the-art science lab, with sinks, power, gas and tall windows for natural light. The lab also has two screens for technology and so does the adjoining classroom.

“Last year, we got in here and ripped a bunch of stuff out and did the floors,” Field said. “She was doing labs back here on all the kitchen stuff. Our superintendent, (Bob Meadows), it was kind of his dream. Since we didn't have a nice, big lab anywhere where the kids could get real hands-on experience, he wanted to take it and kind of retrofit all that stuff so you could have the showers and the sinks and all the gas lines run up through here. It came out really nice.”

The bonds the district issued for the work will be paid back with the 1 percent Macon County sales tax that was passed by voters in 2010 and devoted to school facilities, Field said. Without that money, they wouldn't have been able to do the work or the other work planned to modernize the school, he said.

Immediately outside the science lab, chipping paint on the walls will be replaced this summer, for example, and other maintenance and repair is also thanks to that revenue. The district includes small portions of Christian and Sangamon counties, and Christian County also has a similar tax, though Sangamon does not.

Teacher Rachel England said that until the lab was finished, she has had to choose science experiments carefully, to utilize the space and equipment that were available. Her classroom was in another area of the building, isolating her from the other science teachers. Now she's close to them, and their classes can use the lab as well.

Freshman Alex Mann loves science and is taking England's class even though it's meant for upperclassmen. Soon enough, he will get his chance. He called the lab “awesome.”

England said she's still getting used to the new technology, but it's a great relief to have all the equipment and space to do experiments to prepare her students for wherever their plans take them after graduation.

“Next year, (lessons) will be very different,” she said.


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