Ponder gets ready for big move

Posted Monday, Apr. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Alice Ponder Elementary will host a reception and open house for former students and staff at 6 p.m. May 14. To see diagrams and other information about the new Ponder building, go to the school’s website at ponder.mansfieldisd.org An online auction of Ponder furniture and other items will begin when school ends. Details are still being worked out.

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No one has put more time into Alice Ponder Elementary School than Jane Hart, a reading specialist who is in her 28th year at the school – after putting in four years as a student there. So the thought of seeing the 46-year-old building crushed and replaced has her feeling a little sentimental – and a little practical.

“I’ve spent more time here than in any other place, except my home,” said Hart, who also has taught first and fourth grades at Ponder. “But I think it’s time to get a new one.”

That’s part of the school district’s $69 million plan to demolish and rebuild five elementary schools, using funding from a $198.5 million bond election approved by voters in November 2011. The bond package includes security and technology upgrades and other improvements for the remaining 37 campuses.

Ponder’s staff is planning a farewell reception on May 14 at the building at 102 Pleasant Ridge Drive, which will be razed in July to make room for a new, two-story replacement building that will carry the same name.

Ponder students and staff will move into the existing Tarver-Rendon Elementary School for the next school year, while the Tarver-Rendon students and staff settle into their new school. The new Ponder building is expected to be ready in the fall of the 2014-15 school year, meaning there likely will be a mid-year transition.

While the destruction and reconstruction of buildings and shuttling of hundreds of students and employees between campuses may seem challenging, district officials say they are up to the task.

“The schedule for the project is no more challenging than our normal schedule,” said Jeff Brogden, assistant superintendent for construction services. For Ponder, the first project, he said, “We have allowed extra time for the demolition and site work and feel confident we can complete the school in 16 months, including demolition.”

Ponder teachers and administrators have rifled through the school’s belongings to determine what memorabilia they will save for the new building.

Vicki Klahn, Principal Jennifer Stoecker’s secretary, said an old card catalog from the original Ponder library will make the transition.

“It’s a beautiful piece of furniture,” she said, adding it’s about the only furniture that will see the new building.

Many photographs will be salvaged, including an aerial shot of the campus taken in 1975, she said.

Also, the wooden purple Ponder Panthers mascot will continue to greet people arriving on campus.

“They're excited about the new but sad to see the old building go down, because there’s a lot of history there,” Klahn said. “Everywhere I go I run into somebody who went to Ponder. That’s why there’s been such a demand for this farewell party.”

Brogden said the method of demolition will be the contractor's choice, but he said there will be no dramatic implosions.

“The way those schools are designed, it probably won’t take a wrecking ball,” he said. Most likely, large bulldozers and other heavy equipment will topple the buildings, he said.

The 77,641-square-foot Ponder building will be replaced with one of about 85,000 square feet and a capacity of 800 students, not much more than the current building’s 740-student capacity. But with its present enrollment of 580 students, overcrowding is not an immediate issue, officials said.

Construction on the $13.5 million project is set to begin July 15 and finish Oct. 31, 2014.

One of only four Mansfield schools when it opened for the 1967-68 school year, Ponder was expanded several times over the years.

“It’s kind of like a little house that was started and then they realized almost immediately that it needed to be bigger,” Hart said. “So they would add wings on.”

In recent years, the district has tried to keep the building in decent shape, including replacing floor tiles in several areas.

“But certain things about the building – like plumbing and electrical – we’re constantly having to put in work orders,” said Klahn, who has worked eight years at Ponder and is looking forward to some of the planned features. “We’ll have windows everywhere, I think. A lot of classrooms here don’t have windows. That will bring in natural light, so that will be nice.”

The new Ponder’s design employs the district’s new two-story prototype for elementary schools, first applied in the construction of the new Tarver-Rendon school, Brogden said. Instead of brick and concrete, the new design uses insulated concrete forms (ICF), which are stacked and filled with concrete to create walls that are more durable and energy efficient.

“Most people would not notice the difference of the finished product when compared to traditional construction methods, unless they saw the building during construction,” Brogden said.

The new Ponder also will be equipped with geothermal heating and cooling and exterior LED (light-emitting diode) lighting, which is longer lasting and more energy efficient than traditional light bulbs, he said.

While not much larger than the existing building, Ponder’s replacement will make much better use of space. In classrooms, the teacher’s workstation and storage units will be built in along with 24 student lockers, all made of wood for a unifying appearance.

“One thing is for sure -- it gives you more floor space when you have teacher workstations and storage and lockers all built into two walls,” Brogden said.

The new elementary prototype provides dedicated computer labs, a larger library, a larger clinic and office for the school nurse, a secure vestibule entrance that will funnel people through the principal’s office area, he said. The schools also will have keyless access systems, campus-wide wireless connectivity and 17 security cameras throughout the building and campus.

The district says that all students attending a substitute school can choose to ride a school bus. The district has purchased 18 school buses – nine each for Ponder and Boren elementary schools – to accommodate the additional passengers.

Also, while Ponder students are at Tarver Rendon, classes will start 10 minutes earlier to accommodate parents with students at more than one school.

District spokesman Richie Escovedo said the inconveniences of construction and reshuffling will be fleeting compared with the benefits of new schools.

“We’re excited about the opportunities before us to be able to provide these students with these facilities,” Escovedo said. “But there is a transition that has to take place.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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