Marshalling in a new era

SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — An $8.6-million renovation project at John Marshall Elementary School is nearly done, and educators there are lauding the improvements, which they say have freshened up the facilities while retaining the architectural charm of the school’s older buildings.

Construction for the school’s modernization began almost a year ago, and the whole project is nearly finished, Principal Lynn Marso said.

“We’re between 90% and 95% complete,” Marso said.

The project is ahead of schedule and under budget, said Scott Price, the school district’s administrator of business services. The modernization should be done by the end of March, Price said.

The renovations consist of a wide variety of changes, including refinishing hardwood floors in classrooms, installing a new air-conditioning system and adding ramps to make the school more accessible to wheelchairs, Marso said.

Fifteen classrooms were completely remodeled, with upgrades like new windows, floors and doors, while other classrooms received more minor improvements, she said.

Renovations took place almost exclusively in the older school buildings that house kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders, rather than the two-story building that was constructed in the 1990s where third-, fourth- and fifth-graders have their classrooms, Marso said.

Two of the stand-out improvements are the revamping of the school’s auditorium, and the creation of a courtyard and outdoor amphitheater where the school’s lower playground used to be, she said.

In the auditorium, old, boarded-up windows were replaced with large, new windows, filling the space with light. The hardwood floor was refinished, new seats were added, and matching curtains for the windows and stage were hung.

“This is just breathtaking walking in here,” Marso said of the auditorium.

And where the school’s lower playground used to stand there is now a concrete courtyard with benches and an adjacent crescent-shaped amphitheater.

That new space will create new places for learning, Marso said, where they can hold all-school gatherings or having students take library books outside to read.

“The opportunity and the potential is just enormous,” she said.

An expanded, renovated teacher workroom was also created. It is a place where teachers can make copies, prepare writing books and collaborate with other teachers.

While the whole project is a modernization, the upgrades preserved quality but aging elements — like the hardwood floors, or wooden cabinets in classrooms — when possible, which maintained the vintage feel of the school, Karen Stegman, the school’s assistant principal, said.

“They kept the architectural integrity so it doesn’t look like a ‘new’ school,” she said. “It looks like a cleaned-up school.”

On Saturday, the last two classes will be moved from temporary bungalows into their newly refinished classrooms, Marso said.

“Saturday’s a big day for us,” she said.

Second-grade teacher Pam Gorsuch, whose students are currently housed in temporary bungalows, took a peek at her new classroom on Monday afternoon.

“I love it,” she said.

New elements like tackable walls conducive to hanging student work, white boards instead of chalk boards, and windows that muffle the sound of the vehicle traffic outside were particularly pleasing to her, Gorsuch said.

There are a few small pieces yet to be finished, Marso said, like painting the stairs of the amphitheater.

And on March 7, the temporary bungalows are expected to be removed, giving students back the third of their playground they lost during construction.


 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angela.hokanson@latimes.com.

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