'COOL' SCHOOL

Rock Hill's newest elementary offers technological features in classrooms, studios, offices

Jessica SchonbergAugust 14, 2007 

When India Hook Elementary School opens its doors next week, it will push the standard of technology in local schools to a new level.

The 29 core classrooms are wired with smart boards, audio, video and computer access.

The X-shaped building will be the prototype for at least one more elementary school in the district.

"I cannot wait to have kids in the building and to see their faces when they see all these cool things we've put in for them," Principal Crystal Guyton said.

A feature unique to India Hook is the ability to monitor classrooms through a live video stream.

An observation room connected to the school's office will allow parents, teachers and administrators to watch what's going on in a classroom.

Guyton said teachers will be notified when their classroom is being observed and that no recordings of the footage will be made.

Joel Whitesides, executive director of technology for Rock Hill schools, said the cameras in each room are capable of recording, even if they won't be used that way.

Guyton said the plan is to use the cameras as a teaching tool.

The school will set up about eight peer observation teams that will use the remote observation area at least once a month to watch other teachers' techniques and classroom management strategies.

Parents also will be allowed to observe their child's classroom without disrupting instruction.

In addition to the cameras, teachers at India Hook will wear small microphones every day. The sound will be projected from speakers on the ceiling in the front and the back of the classrooms.

Guyton said the speakers will keep teachers from losing their voices and will help students focus on the lessons at hand.

"When you hear very clearly what's going on, you naturally tune in," she said.

The microphones are part of a package being implemented at schools throughout the district. The package consists of an interactive white board with a projector, a laptop and a sound system, Whitesides said.

The only other school to have the complete package is Sunset Park Elementary School, the district's science and technology magnet school.

India Hook has many other facets for hands-on learning.

A small TV studio will allow fifth-graders to make the morning announcements. Media specialists will train the students on how to use the equipment, but the students ultimately will be in charge of running the show.

The school will be equipped with a computer lab with about 30 machines and a laptop cart. The lab will be used before and after school, for classes and by a not-yet-formed computer or technology club. The cart will have 20 computers, each with wireless access and a printer, Whitesides said.

Whitesides said the district as a whole is moving away from in-room computers and toward the laptop cart model. Guyton said each classroom at India Hook will have several computers in it.

Not to be left out, teachers at India Hook each will have their own laptop. They'll be able to make use of their computers in the school's teacher offices on each hall.

The offices were something teachers said they wanted during the design phase. Because of the technology, teachers will be able to create and design lessons on their computers at home, then bring them to school and upload them on to their boards for instruction.

For Guyton, incorporating student and teacher feedback was an important part of building the school. A group of fifth-graders planned and designed the playground, so it had the features they knew children wanted. Teachers were surveyed to see what they would want in an ideal elementary school.

Guyton said she's thrilled with the way things turned out.

"It's compact," she said. "We like the compact design."

Guyton said she appreciates the way the school was designed for maximum security and technology but also for functional use.

Making the school a high-tech learning environment wasn't planners' only priority. Keeping it environmentally friendly was important, too.

Overhead lights in the classrooms are motion-activated and come on when they detect movement in the room. Lights shut off when the room is empty.

The school's larger areas, such as the combination gym and cafeteria area, have hanging ceilings. The ceilings, which look exactly how they sound, allow air to move around more so the rooms don't get as hot during the warmer months.

Most rooms have multiple windows allowing for lots of natural light.

Even the bathrooms are partly green, with high-powered hand dryers on the walls in place of paper towel holders.

Here's a peek at some of the schools other features:

• The media center is at the heart of the school to allow easy access for all students and teachers.

• All kindergarten classrooms have direct access to the playground.

• The school has an outdoor basketball court and soccer field.

• An outdoor patio will be used for art classes.

• Location: 18 acres off Twin Lakes Road

• Cost: About $16 million

• Estimated enrollment: About 500

• Mascot: The Pirates

Jessica Schonberg • 329-4072

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