Red Hook High School science rooms go high-tech

After a period of intensive construction over the summer months and early fall, Red Hook High School has completed the major renovations needed to upgrade and modernize its science facilities.

The main focus of the $2-million project was the creation of nine new rooms that combine a traditional classroom and science lab. The new space replaces the former dedicated lab rooms that dated back to the building’s construction in 1969.

Science faculty at Red Hook High said the new facilities have already greatly expanded the capabilities and quality of science education at the school.

“It’s hard to even express the impact it has had so far this year,” said chemistry teacher Tara Miller. “The biggest improvement is that the lab is within the classroom for all the teachers now. Previously, we had one chemistry lab for three teachers to share — and depending on the day of the school cycle, we were either able to get into the lab or not able to get into the lab.”

She added, “Most of the science teachers did not have their own room. Many of the teachers had to use a plastic cart to move their teaching supplies and their desk basically from room to room.”

Miller said the new facilities give her greater flexibility in helping her students. “Now I have the freedom to have my class and, if it seems like there is a demonstration that might help, I can take them to the lab space in the back rather than having to say I’ll show them in a couple of days when the lab is free. I can do hands-on stuff in the class room any time I want,” she said.

Miller also noted that the plumbing, gas and electrical improvements allow the use of more equipment at the same time and new safety features, such as fume hoods and emergency showers, bring the classroom up to modern standards.

In addition, biology teacher Bob Engasser said, the new facilities allow teachers to conduct higher-level and significantly more detailed lab work. “It used to be that we had one lab room and 200 students shared that lab room. That meant that when you were done you had to clean everything up and reset it for the next lab class,” he said. “With the situation we have now, we can do things like look at the effect of fertilizer on the growth of plants over three weeks and we can keep it set up and we can check it every day. Multiday experiments are now possible, and that’s a very good thing.”

The idea for the renovations goes back to a series of studies conducted in 2005 and 2006 to identify the needs of the school district. Perry Sheldon, director of facilities and operations, explained that the original plan included construction of a new science wing. “There was a capital project that was proposed that included a new auditorium. A new science wing was conceived as a part of that project. Unfortunately, we did not get the voter support to move forward on that project,” he said.

The $2 million in funding for the renovations became available after a recent district-wide roofing project came in significantly under budget.

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