Grading IJ Holton's First Year

Created: 06/03/2014 6:02 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The bell will ring at 12:55 Wednesday afternoon at Austin’s I-J Holton intermediate school. And when it does, it will bring the school’s first year to an end.

“I can't believe how quickly the year went, and how much we accomplished in that year," Holton principal Jean McDermott said.

The fifth and sixth grade intermediate school opened for business last September. Voters in the Austin school district had approved a construction levy to build the school to ease overcrowding at the district’s middle and elementary schools.

"There's a learning curve for everyone," principal Jean McDermott said. And that includes teachers.

“One year under your belt makes you fully understand how you can use the building, how you can use your technology," principal Jean McDermott told us.

Holton opened as Austin's most technologically advanced school building.

"So the immediacy of that was very different, and when that can happen you can teach in a very different way as well," Jean McDermott said.

"We will be able to offer, we believe, 21st century education," Austin schools superintendent David Krenz said when ground was broken for the school on May 14th, 2012.

And that 21st century education comes in a 21st century setting that includes areas called FTLAs … flexible learning and teaching areas. They're open, informal areas between clusters of classrooms.

"The classes were literally right across the FTLA from each other, and it was so easy to get there," fifth grader Ellen Kanne told us.

But they also got crowded.

"The FTLAs were so small it's hard to kind of move around," Ellen Kanne said.

“There were just too many people so we couldn't work," fifth grader Keagan Larson added.

“Where we strategically placed our supervisors had to look a little bit different than before," principal Jean McDermott said.

She had been Holton's principal for a year by the time the building opened last fall.

"We spent that year planning the space, planning the furniture, planning curriculum, planning staffing," she said. “This place is what i dreamed it would be and even more."

And the kids we talked to give their new school high marks: ”B-plus" Keagan Larson said.
And from Ellen Kanne, even higher marks:  "A-plus, probably."

Photo: ABC 6 News