Lori Bendickson teaches Computer Applications to students inside one of the new computer labs at Ellis Middle School Wednesday. -- Trey Mewes/trey.mewes@austindailyheral.com

Archived Story

Students discover changes at Ellis

Published 7:47am Thursday, September 9, 2010

A couple weeks before he started seventh grade, Ian Bearden helped finish the construction of Ellis Middle School. He didn’t work with heavy machinery, but he did set up one of the computer labs, which occupies the space where the cafeteria once was.

He had gone to Ellis with his dad, who works as part of the technical service staff, and during a tour of the building’s renovations, he ended up taking monitors and keyboards out of their boxes and watching his dad figure out how the computer lab’s wiring was going to work.

Bearden is one of about 900 students returning to Ellis Middle School, which just completed renovations last week. As a result of the construction project, which began in mid-April, middle school students enjoy more classrooms, a large kitchen space, an even larger multi-purpose gym room and state-of-the-art science labs.

Bearden, along with fellow seventh graders Payton Merritt, Tori Hepler and Meghan Burroughs, all like the new additions to the school, although they had some difficulty getting around at first.

“It’s pretty confusing, but you kind of get used to it,” Hepler said.

According to Hepler, many of the classrooms and teachers were rearranged during the renovations. This means classes which took place on the sixth grade or seventh grade side of the building are now interspersed, and classrooms that were traditionally grouped together by grade are now all over the place.

“It was a lot easier the old way,” Merritt said. “The teachers didn’t give us a tour this year.”

Burroughs, who is new to the district, said she had trouble finding where her physics class was and has had to run to make some of her classes.

“I have one class where it’s all the way on the other side of the school,” she said.

One of the largest additions to Ellis is the creation of two new science classrooms and the renovation of another. The classrooms, which were sponsored by the Hormel Foundation, Hormel Foods Corporation, Austin Packaging Company and donations by Dick and Nancy Knowlton, come equipped with state-of-the-art teaching stations, much to the excitement of the students.

“If we’re lucky, we get to dissect frogs,” Bearden said.

“Just thinking of being able to do things they’re doing in high school is pretty cool,” Hepler added.

All of the students agree the new cafeteria system is a vast improvement, however. Because of the amount of space inside the new multi-purpose gymnasium which also serves as the cafeteria, students eat lunch at bigger tables which can seat eight. Last year’s tables sat four to five or, if students squeezed together, a maximum of six.

“We used to have to seat six lunches last year,” Katie Berglund, Ellis Middle School principal said. “Now they eat by grade level.”

The serving area next to the cafeteria was made larger as well, helping ease lunch line congestion. Students are also excited about the new A La Carte line, which will be ready in about two weeks.

The multi-purpose room isn’t being used for gym classes this year, however. Berglund said school officials decided against scheduling gym classes in the new gymnasium since they didn’t know if the room’s flooring system would be completed on time. Everything was finished on schedule though, and the multi-purpose room will be used for athletics and other activities.

Thanks to the building additions, the computer labs at Ellis were moved into the area where the old cafeteria used to be, freeing up the rooms they were in before to be used as classrooms which helps ease some of the space restriction problems and reduces the middle school’s average class size.

In all, the students were pleased they were able to experience the changes firsthand.

“It’s pretty cool to think that you’re the first people to use all the new things,” said Hepler.

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