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Mount Pleasant Shows Off Its Makeover

The new cafeteria at Mount Pleasant is open and inviting.

At Mount Pleasant Elementary  School a blend of traditional character and state-of-the-art technology have merged together in the school’s renovation, which has been underway for 15 months. Roanoke County school administrators and multiple generations of Mount Pleasant students came together to pay tribute to the school at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday. They also toured the newest additions to the school during an open house.

The ceremony followed a theme of “We’re Thankful,” with administrators hailing the achievements of the builders that put the renovations together. Principal Ellen Walton said she was thankful to work in a community with a sense of pride – and to work with architects RRMM and Associates, whom she said “honored the history of the school” that has been open since 1935.  Roanoke County Schools Superintendent Lorraine Lange also praised the architects, saying the  renovation  of Mount Pleasant was the favorite of the three recent renovation  projects that she has been a part of.

Of the new additions to the school, the two most conspicuous extensions are the cafeteria and a large southeast wing that houses the art room and administrative offices. The cafeteria was moved from the basement to the north side of the school, where large windows now allow light to pour in as students eat.

The new southeast wing houses the school’s only entrance. In the old setup there were multiple entrances but the new one directs visitors through the school office, for security reasons. Walton was quick to point out that “the big thing in all of [the] renovations is making sure that safety is of ultimate importance.”

Separate bus and staff parking were  also part of the renovations.  Maroon tones on the walls near the entrance pay tribute to the school’s role as a feeder for William Byrd High and Middle Schools, as do the tile “paws” – as in Terrier paws – spread throughout the hallways and classrooms.

Enhanced technology is also a large part of the project. In addition to 25 new computers in the labs and upgraded internet speed, every classroom is now home to an “Active Board,” an interactive white board that projects graphics from a computer which can be controlled with a stylus.

Charts and graphs can be moved around by students using the stylus and the boards are scalable up and down so that children in wheelchairs can reach them. The Active Votes program allows students to answer multiple choice questions on the board using wireless voting devices, giving teachers instant feedback. Speakers  allow sound to go with the graphics and accessed websites.

Roanoke County Schools Community Relations Specialist Chuck Lionberger was quick to note that this new technology is not “bell and whistle” but rather a “foundational tool that helps to enhance engagement and instruction.” Speaking of foundational, geothermal heating, which uses the natural heating and cooling power of the Earth, has been installed and is expected to save 90% on utility costs.

The school’s new  art room is four times as large as the old one;  teacher Debra Harris showed students and parents around the room, which houses interactive art games on computers, large windows that bring in “beautiful natural light” and, soon, a nearby kiln for ceramics that replaces one which was only accessible by going outside and down a level. This, Harris said, is much safer for her students’ projects.

The renovations were received  positively by parents and students, with youngsters  running throughout the  classrooms and the library excitedly during the open house. Mount Pleasant Civic League President Mike Roop voiced his approval as well: “I talked with [Walton] about safety, security and technology. They have excelled in  incorporating that into each classroom.”

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