After more than 10 years of hoping and nearly three years of waiting, students and teachers at Bancroft Elementary School at 18th and Newton Streets NW are ready to make the most of their new educational facilities.
The D.C. public school's new wing, which opened Feb. 9, was officially dedicated last Thursday as students, parents, teachers, community leaders and public officials gathered for three open house assemblies at the Mount Pleasant school.
"They all lived through that construction period for three years," said the school's nine-year principal Helen Safrit, tears welling in her eyes as she pointed to the afternoon assembly. "We've waited for this day for three years. Now we're ready to get down to business."
The modernaization, which was originally planned in the mid-1960's, cost approximately $1.5 million. The construction, which included a full upgrading of the old building, started during the summer of 1974.
THe new wing features an open space learning center which handles 90 students, and a preschool classroom which can house 40 3-and 4-year-olds. The facility, which allowed the removal of three demountable classrooms in the school yard, will also contain an open-space area for adult education and offices for the PTA and neighborhood groups.
The improvements in the old building include a new library, a remodeled auditorium which can be used as a gymnasium, folding partitions instead of walls in many places, new plumbing and more office space.
"I believe for the continuation of the programs that Bancroft has come to have, it is very necessary," said William Saunders, deputy superintendant of School Region 2 to which Bancroft was shifted for this school year. "This facility will allow the students here to spread out, and it will also allow the introduction of enrichment programs, remediation programs and, hopefully, for smaller class sizes."
Marilyn Brown, deputy superintendant of Region 5 where Bancroft was located before last year's switch,said the school was noted for its diverse cultural background and hoped the improvements would not allow the institution to take better advantage of the situation.
But those who said they felt most relieved by the new addition are the teachers and the 609 students. The days of two teachers and 50 students in a classroom are over, as are the times of four classes being held simultaneaously in the auditorium.
Victoria Wiseman, one member of a teaching pair who had 50 students in a classroom last year, said displine was not a problem with the large classes, but she could not tell how she was reaching the children individually.
"You know how it is when people are in on your space," she said. "With 50 kids and two teachers in aroom, you turn around, and there's someone there."
"It was a bit of a problem - it was awfully hard to manage," said Edyth Pratt, the senior teacher at Bancrofwith 23 years of service. "Fifty in a classroom are too many to teach effectively. Wherever we could find available space, that's where we put them."
"It's very nice. You get to do different things," said Melvina Sims, 12, a sixth-grader who likes to go to the new wing to learn science. "You've got a whole lot of space. (Before) you couldn't walk around. You'd walk around and you'd bump into each other."
"When I came here, the materials were old. It was all tore up when I got here," said Melvin Ray, 11, a sixth-grader who started at Bancroft as a preschooler. "I like to go around (the new wing) and look at the plants. I like to go around there and work. Since it's been remodeled, I seem to feel better."