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New & Improved Chisholm Elementary, a Result of Voter Approved Half-Cent Sales Tax

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Families with students that attend Chisholm Elementary, located at 557 Ronnoc Lane in New Smyrna Beach, are having an exciting school year. Students have moved from the original school building, first opened in 1954, into a brand new state-of-the-art school. The $20.8 million project began in June 2018 and was recently completed late summer 2019. The students moved in September 17, 2019.

The completed first phase of construction features a two-story classroom building, administrative building with a media center, multi-purpose area and the cafeteria. The structures are not the only thing that was upgraded – all furnishings, school supplies and equipment was upgraded, too. Classrooms are filled with desks and cabinets that double as white boards, flexible seating for students to move around at their desks and mobile desks for teachers to take their computers with them around the room. 

Flexibility and multipurpose spaces are a key feature of 21st century learning environments. Each classroom wing features an extended learning area enabling students and teachers to enjoy additional spaces for collaboration and project-based learning. Green or sustainability features include daylight harvesting which provides for the lighting to automatically adjust throughout the day based on natural light. Children and teachers were especially excited to see that all classrooms have their own restrooms. The school was designed to accommodate 750 students. Currently, approximately 400 students attend. 

An attempt to recruit more students was made before the new school year. Melissa White, Samsula resident, made the switch for her children Asher, 6, first grade and Reese, 9, fourth grade. White says her decision to change schools was based on how the school recognized when her children succeeded in achieving excellent grades and good behavior. 

“The recruitment letter stated the new school would focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and mentioned the partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach,” explains White. “We absolutely made the right decision to move to Chisholm. I wish we had done it sooner.”

The school was designed with safety and security in mind featuring an automatic electronic locking system, cameras and impact resistant windows. The front office is locked and staff must buzz visitors in. The school is completely fenced.

“Rebuilding the school in its current location included a lot of community participation. Design and community involvement started in January 2017,” stated Saralee Morrisey, Volusia County Schools Planning Director for the district. A feature of the new school that she directly attributed to community comments includes a display case in the front office for the community to showcase the school’s history. The beautiful oak tree in the front of the school was also a focal point for the community. Principal Craig Zablo is working with a local artist, Steve Hardock, to include a mural in the front office.

The second phase is moving forward and includes a brand new single story classroom building, expanded parking lot, new playground equipment and a physical education pavilion. Plans call for the new classrooms to greet returning students in the August 2020 school year. 

The funding for the new school was a result of the voter approved 15-year extension of the half-cent local infrastructure sales tax in 2017. Chisholm is the second school to be constructed with the funds. Orlando based Rhodes + Brito Architects designed the plans and H.J. High Construction was hired to oversee the project. 

View a tour of the new school by visiting Volusia County Schools Facebook page, Facebook.com/VolusiaCountySchools and selecting the videos link. Tour posted on September 19, 2019.

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