School's out for summer, but Falmouth construction is in full swing

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FALMOUTH — The first thing you notice when you walk into the new Falmouth Elementary School on Woodville Road is the natural light.

That light accompanies you as you walk through the colorful halls in each wing, even on the lower floors, where thick glass inset in the floors allows light from skylights on the second floor to continues down to the first.

The new building, which came in $8 million under budget at $38 million, is on track to replace the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school buildings on Lunt Road this fall.

In the fall, between 850 and 900 children will fill the colorful halls and classrooms. Grades one through five will use the building’s modern classrooms, along with a day-care service for town and school staff and students who are parents, and the new all-day kindergarten program, which is shaping up to be the largest kindergarten class ever in Falmouth.

“The theme is to capture the water, the ocean, in Falmouth, and the grassland and forests,” said Superintendent Barbara Powers, pointing to the green and blue tiles throughout the building.

Each wing has a theme, some bluish-green like the ocean, some orange and brown, like the sun and soil of the town’s farmland.

“Every two rooms has a project room, which the teacher can see into,” Powers said. The small rooms just outside the classroom will likely be used for response to intervention work with students who may be struggling in the regular classroom, or for small groups who need space to work on their own.

Each kindergarten classroom has its own bathroom, and every classroom is equipped with water fountains and sinks. Lighting is all motion sensitive, ceilings are sloped to make the most of natural light, skylights are everywhere, and in many places, windows go floor to ceiling.

“For the first time, all grade levels will be clustered together,” Powers said. “I think the teachers are excited about being able to do grade-level work together.”

The school even has a “green roof,” alive with native plants. The plants soak up rain water, eliminating the need for some storm-water run-off pools. One roof, full of seedlings that have just taken root, is also an outdoor classroom teachers can use during the warmer months.

The band room, cafeteria and gymnasium all have retractable sound-dampening walls, so the rooms can be made large or small, depending on the need.

The new gym, which will be available for after-hours use by the town’s Community Programs Department, has a separate entrance and a large parking lot that can be used as overflow for sport events on the ball fields below.

Several parking lots are made of a special kind of pavement that allows water to permeate and seep into the ground to naturally reduce runoff.

Powers said that rather than equipping all the classrooms with Smartboards, which connect teacher computers with a large, white board, the district decided to get iPads for students and Light Speed, a microphone system for teachers.

“The teacher wears a little mic, and the kids will hear her as if she’s standing next to them,” Powers said. “It helps the kiddos, helps the hearing-impaired students, and it helps the teachers, so they don’t strain their voices.”

The district has planned a dedication ceremony for the new school for Saturday, Sept. 17. Powers said parent-teacher meet-and-greets will be held the first week of school, but that she would like to give teachers the opportunity to settle into their classrooms before inviting in the general public.

“We’re very excited,” she said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

Sidebar Elements

Workers in what will soon become the cafeteria in the new Falmouth Elementary School.

Falmouth School Finance Director Dan O’Shea points to sun shades that help spread natural light throughout classrooms, reducing the need for fluorescent lights.

The front driveway and entrance of the new Falmouth Elementary School. Furniture will begin appearing in the empty classrooms in the next few weeks, and teachers will begin to move in at the end of August.

It looks like a lawn, but it’s really the green roof on the new elementary school in Falmouth, planted with vegetation to absorb rain and keep the school cool.

The new elementary school library will have a spiral staircase between the first and second floors.

Falmouth Superintendent Barbara Powers looks up at a sky light in the new elementary school building. Natural light is a significant part of the building, which is designed to be energy efficient.