New Castle News

January 9, 2014

Photo Gallery, Story: Kindergartners have first day at new Lockley

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Young eyes were wide with wonder.

Four- and 5-year-olds bundled in winter coats, hats, scarves and mittens got off school buses Wednesday morning and walked single file into a brand new school.

New Castle students got a late start Wednesday because of the unusually cold weather and kindergartners arrived at the new Lockley Early Learning Center just before lunchtime for their first day of school there.

Excited was an understatement.

“I want to stay here for the rest of my life,” one boy remarked as he, his teacher and classmates took a walking tour of the building.

Some children were happy to have lockers for their belongings.

They entered classrooms that have brightly colored furniture. Smartboards were turned on to show the weather forecast.

Before Christmas, the students were attending kindergarten at the former St. Joseph school on the East Side while the learning center was being completed.

Elementary principal Debbie DeBlasio oversaw Wednesday’s transition, which she said had surpassed her expectations.

“I’m so happy for our children.”

She also said she is proud of her brother, school board member George Gabriel, who had spearheaded the project when he was superintendent.

John Sarandrea, hired after Gabriel’s retirement, is overseeing the project to its finish.

Children in first and second grades will start classes in the building in September.

“It’s more than I expected,” said DeBlasio, whose office is inside the main entrance. The building was designed by Eckles Architecture.

“It’s very open, bright and the classrooms are very conducive to learning,” she said, adding, “No more tutoring in the stairwells.”

She was referring to a lack of space in the other elementary schools, which are to be closed later this year.

“It’s like a dream,” commented Lockley’s reading teacher, Lori Doran. “It really doesn’t seem real yet. It was a real thrill when the kids got here and you saw the looks on their faces.”

“This is beyond what I could ever imagine what a school would look like,” said kindergarten teacher Vicki Bober. “I’m extremely thankful to the former superintendent, the school board and Mr. Sarandrea for making this all happen.”

In the cafeteria, students were given a choice of chicken wraps or a sandwich. Fruit, salad and milk also were part of the menu.

Wooden trees that trimmed the cafeteria walls have colored knobs to represent fruit and serve as hooks for children’s coats as they enter school in the morning for breakfast.

Renae Cotelesse had her students seated in a circle on the floor at the front of her classroom for a reading lesson. They passed along a stone as each said in a full sentence what he or she liked about the new school. One girl liked the purple tables. Several liked their new lockers.

“The lockers are a big hit here,” DeBlasio commented.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)