DeKALB – Tyler Elementary School kindergarten teacher Kate Cardella just had to take a chalkboard home with her before the school was gutted and renovated.
Crews were removing desks, chairs and equipment Friday from Tyler Elementary, 1021 Alden Circle, DeKalb. Friday marked the last day of school for students and the beginning of a massive renovation project.
“I wanted a piece of the school,” Cardella said.
Tyler Elementary’s $3.5 million renovation largely will be paid from the $21 million construction grant the district received. DeKalb School District 428 board members unanimously approved the project Feb. 4 so crews could replace floors, upgrade lighting, secure entrances and add classroom and support space. Every classroom also will receive a smart board, an interactive dry-erase board.
Perhaps the most important addition will be having doors. The 45-year-old school is the only one in the district without doors in the classrooms, with the exception of a room for students with special needs, Principal Andria Mitchell said.
Instead, the only thing that separated classes was the drywall that was installed starting in 1990s as more students attended the school.
Teachers also used filing cabinets, bookcases and movable dividers to separate one class from another, said third-grade teacher Debbie Pardridge. Pardridge has been teaching at Tyler the longest, having started there in 1992.
“Kids are so used to people walking through, they learned to block [the noise] out,” she said. “It’s amazing how much children learn to block it out, because they’re so used to it.”
Fourth-grader Kaleigh Parker said she’ll miss all the memories she has made since she was a kindergartner. Attending Tyler next year as a fifth-grader will be a new experience for all of the students, Kaleigh said.
“It’s like moving into a new house,” she said. “I hope I meet new people next year so I can tell them what we did here.”
Some students are used to change. Fourth-grader Elaina Swafford said the current lunch line used to be her kindergarten classroom. Still, she said she’ll miss having no doors, although things got a little noisy at times.
“Luckily, they’re going to keep the playground, which is cool,” Elaina said.
Fourth-grader Melina Rudes said she is looking forward to the revamped school. Students currently have to squeeze through tight hallways to take off their backpacks.
“It’s all squished and crowded,” she said. “It’s like you’re in New York.”
Both teachers and students will have to get used to the new Tyler, Mitchell said. The work should be finished before school starts in the fall.
“We always find a way together to make it happen,” Mitchell said. “That’s the Tyler way.”