The North Bend Eagle

NBC science rooms
NBC seventh graders work on assignments in Bob Feurer's classroom. A successful bond issue vote will give the science department some much needed updates, Feurer said.

Safety, Secrutiy, Science:

Bond issue would modernize high school building

by Nathan Arneal
Published 2/27/12

For more info on the bond issue, including floor plans and costs, visit

Last week an unpleasant stench wafted through the halls of North Bend Central High School.

The administration and maintenance staff tried to pin down the source of the smell, thinking perhaps some electrical wiring was smoldering somewhere.

Nope. It was just science students in Steve Richardson’s classroom burning peanuts as part of an experiment.

“The whole building stunk,” principal Brenda Petersen said. “It smelled like a burning wire. We were trying to find where it was at. We thought it was coming from a bathroom.”

Richardson’s classroom does not have a fume hood, standard equipment in most science rooms. There is a fume hood used to eradicate harmful or pungent vapors in the classroom of science teacher Bob Feurer, though its ventilation pipe is held together with duct tape.

Building new, modern science classrooms is one of the many improvements that will be made to the high school building if district patrons of NBC approve a bond issue March 12. Other projects in the bond issue include a middle school concept in the high school, renovating the old science rooms into four new classrooms, new and renovated locker rooms and a new competition gymnasium.

Science department seeks modernization, safety

The piss pipeThis was a vertical pipe running to one of the NBC locker room urinals. When the maintenance staff couldn't clear the clog with a drain snake, they cut into the pipe and found it nearly 100 percent clogged with residue. The locker rooms will receive a much needed renovation if the bond issue is successful.

Science teachers Steve Richardson and Bob Feurer both joined the NBC faculty in 1979. At that time the high school building was a decade old. The building is now in its fifth decade, and the fixtures and furnishings in their science rooms date back to the building’s 1969 construction.

“Everything here is that old,” Feurer said. “Back in the day it was really good. It was a great facility. It has served well, but today kids are so much different. How you teach has got to change with the times, too. That’s where the technology and pulling their lives into the classroom means so much more to them. A new environment would help us do that.”

One issue that all NBC science teachers have to deal with is the inconvenient placement of the lab stations. The work stations, with access to water, electricity and natural gas used for Bunsen burners, are located around the perimeter of the classroom. This means lab work has to be done facing the wall, which leaves students’ backs facing the front of the room.

“A lot of it simply has to do with the fact that instruction is harder to do when the kids’ backs are to you,” Feurer said. “You don’t know what they’re working on necessarily. You have to stop the entire class to give them an instruction. Where if you were at the front of the room and you had everybody’s eyes front, they could probably continue to work and still focus on the instruction.”

If the bond issue passes, three new science rooms would be constructed on the east side of the school building. The rooms would be designed with pods of tables that would be equipped to serve both as lab stations and desks. Each pod would face the front of the room and be equipped with all the tools that now require a trip to the edge of the room.

Richardson said he foresees a time when each student is equipped with a laptop computer that would plug right into each lab station.

“I’m starting to do a lot more with computer simulations,” Richardson said. “You get into those kinds of things and you can do laboratories that are more meaningful. Labs that would take weeks or months to do, you can do them in an hour or two.”

Feurer, the 2011 Nebraska Teacher of the Year, said having classrooms with modern technology would help him tailor lessons to a broader range of students.

“With more technology, you could serve more kids,” he said. “The kid that needs a little more remediation, you could provide them that. Or you got the kid who is more advanced and is done with the study. Let’s get him going. I can only be one place at one time. The technology would let us serve the top ends and the lower ends better.”

New science classrooms would also be equipped with many safety features the current facility lacks. An overhead shower is now a standard feature in most science classrooms in case of a chemical splash or spill. The NBC science rooms do not have such a shower.

Because of the remote chance of an explosion from the natural gas lines in science classrooms, most schools place science rooms on the outer edge of the building.

The NBC science department is smack in the middle of the classroom wing.

“To be completely honest,” Feurer said, “the design here isn’t safe.”

Both Feurer and Richardson said safety wouldn’t be the only advantage of having science rooms on the outer edge of the building.

Having windows to the outside would provide natural light to enter the room as well as give students a look at the world they are studying. The science teachers are also discussing a greenhouse that could be built off of the new science rooms.

“You’d have nature right outside the window with the pond right there, grass plots, all those things would be visible right there,” Feurer said. “I just think there would be a lot of potential bringing the outdoors indoors. I think it would make science accessible to more kids.”

Room for a middle school

Building new science classrooms would allow the current science rooms to be renovated into four new classrooms. Principal Brenda Petersen said a couple of these rooms would likely be dedicated to special education, and another might be turned into a computer lab dedicated to the middle school.

The new classrooms would help make room for a middle school and allow the sixth graders to move up from the elementary building, easing overcrowding issues in that building.

The NBC middle school would serve sixth, seventh and eighth graders and be centralized in six classrooms in the southeast portion of the high school building.
The middle schoolers would have their own building entrance as well as their own locker room. For the most part, middle school students would be isolated from high school students.

In the mornings, the middle school would have its own flexible schedule, so its students would not be in the halls during high school passing periods. If the middle school teachers wanted to extend social studies class time and shorten math class one day and reverse the roles the next day, they would have the freedom to do so, Petersen said.

“From the schedule we’ve looked at, (middle school students) are in their little pod area in the morning,” Petersen said. “In the afternoon, that’s when they’d go to the gym and have their elective classes. For almost two-thirds of the day, they are in their designated middle school area.”

The teachers of the core classes, math, social studies, English, etc., would be dedicated middle school teachers. A common planning period would be built into the schedule, giving the teachers a chance to discuss student issues or plan joint projects.

Petersen said the middle school concept would also provide student’s more reading time.

“Right now in seventh grade, you get the one language arts class and that’s it,” Petersen said. “If we bring sixth grade, seventh grade and tie eighth grade in, you could do a reading block also. That’s huge with state assessments. We need to give our kids more reading opportunity. Doing the middle school concept really lends itself to having more reading.”

Locker rooms, gym ease schedule, give separation

If the bond issue is successful, a new competition gymnasium and two new locker rooms would be added to the west side of the school. The existing locker rooms would be renovated and become dedicated middle school locker rooms.

“I’ve never liked that our seniors and seventh graders are in the same locker room getting ready for football practice,” Petersen said. “I just think that’s a bad mix. And those are some (phone) calls that we get every year. Kids’ parents don’t like that, and I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t like that either. I think the separation would be nice.”

The current locker rooms were built in 1969, before the era of high school girls athletics.

“Our girls locker room is tiny and pathetic compared to the boys,” Petersen said. “It just needs a facelift.”

NBC school board member Dan Wesely said the renovations and additions are long overdue.

“We’ve actually needed these updates through the years,” he said. “We’ve added activities and just wedged them into the same building. It becomes a time issue in getting the kids home and having more space to do more activities.”

With multiple athletic programs and activities such as one act play production fighting for gym time, students’ days can get stretched to the point they sometimes spend 12 to 14 hours a day in the school building.

Jan Hobza began working in the school office as a secretary in 1979. She knows what kind of schedules students face when they try to fit practices for dance team, basketball and one acts all in one day.

“As long as I’ve been here they’ve had morning practices,” Hobza said. “That to me was one of the craziest things ever because we had kids on the road in the dark in the morning and late at night.”

Petersen said the new gym will also serve as an additional P.E. classroom. Now, high school weight lifting classes and junior high P.E. classes sometimes share the same gym space, sometimes even playing games together.

“It’s not an ideal situation to have seventh graders and seniors intermixing in games,” the principal said.

Adding a sixth grade P.E. class to the schedule would further complicate things if there were only one gym.

“Our gym is packed,” Petersen said. “It burdens the schedule down because you can’t move anything around. This would give us another option where maybe we could do seventh grade P.E. and (senior level) lifetime sports at the same time because we’d have two gyms available. It would alleviate the scheduling nightmare that we currently have.”

Open for community use

If the bond issue passes, the community would gain greater access to the high school facility, Petersen said. The weight room and new gym would be able to be sealed off from the rest of the school, allowing the community to use the building during the evenings or early mornings.

Petersen said key cards could be given out to provide the user access to the weight room and new gym. The cards can be programmed to be active only during certain times of the day or days of the week. For example, the cards wouldn’t be able to be used during the school day.

Much like hotel key cards, the cards could be deactivated if they were lost. The school can also track when a card is used to gain access to the facilities.

Petersen said this technology would allow community members to access the athletic facilities to work out or hold youth sports practices.

Improved security

Another aspect of the bond issue would improve security at the front entrance of the high school. Currently, the office staff has no direct sight line to the front entrance.

Security cameras were recently installed at the entrance. Visitors must press a button and then be buzzed into the building. However, the cameras have their limits, said Hobza, who is one of people manning the system from the central office.

“Having the camera is a big plus,” she said, “but at certain times of the day when the sun is behind you we just see a shadow.”

The screen on the machine that operates the front door is about the size of a credit card, Hobza said, making identification difficult at times.

Part of the bond issue plans would extend the office a little farther south, toward the entrance, and replace the south wall of the office with glass that would provide a view of the front doors.

“The way the world is now is different from what it was 25 years ago,” Hobza said. “You go to any other school that I’ve been to in recent years, when a person that comes into the building, you are seen by somebody alive, not just picked up on a camera. Somebody sees you walk in.”

<<Back to the front page