Remember when the teacher said that, if you finished the assignment early, you could do additional work for extra credit? Well, something like that is happening at Claymont Intermediate School.

With renovation of the auditorium-gymnasium wing all but finished, four months ahead of schedule, and having come in under budget, it has become possible to redo the front office and, in the process, give an added boost to building security. There also will be an improvement in the appearance of the entranceway.

That work is slated to be done during the coming summer.

"Call it an added bonus to what we thought we'd be able to do, but it's something that has real value

and benefits," said John Read, manager of the Brandywine School District's building rehabilitation and modernization program.

The school office, he explained, will not only be redesigned but also 'rotated' to that everyone entering through the front door of the building will have to pass through the office. District policy already requires that, once the children are admitted in the morning, all school doors are locked and front-door access is controlled.

While security cameras would have satisfied security concerns, the new arrangement will be a further enhancement," Read said.

Providing it, he said, was part of the original plan and included as an optional bid, but not fully committed to until progress on the rest of the job determined there would be sufficient money to undertake that work.

"It was the only thing we could peel off" of the original plan in case it became necessary to divert money, he said. "It's not like you could decide to install just half of a sprinkler system or do something like that."

The Claymont portion of the district building program is budgeted at slightly over $6 million.

John Read demonstrates that the new auditorium doors open wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Providing access for handicapped persons has been a major element in the renovation program.

As Delaforum previously reported, the entranceway improvement involves installation of a new canopy.

Signature piece of the renovation as far as graduates of the former Claymont High School and long-time residents to the community are concerned is the restoration and reopening of the 25-yards-long swimming pool. It was shut down in the early 1980s when the filter and air-handling systems failed. During most of the intervening years it was used to store unused furniture and other equipment.

Returning it to life has involved things as detailed replacing damaged tiles with new ones that are a close-to-exact match to the ones that have been there since 1970 to providing access for persons with physical handicaps.

The gymnasium likewise has been restored although, unlike the pool, it has remained in continuous use. A stage area there, which also had been used for storage for several years has been reopened. Also refurbished was the 900-seat auditorium.

Located at the south end of the building, the auditorium-gymnasium wing has been redesigned to serve, as the occasion requires, as an integral part of the school or a separate area unto itself. During an evening event, for instance, it will be served by its own entrance and completely sealed off by locked doors from the rest of the building.

The auditorium, gym and pool, Read said, will be available for community use under the terms of the district's facilities-use policy. However, he pointed out, the renovation program is primarily intended to enable them to serve the building's educational mission. That refers in particular to its present role serving the upper-elementary level classes, grade four through six.

The wing was actually built, in 1959, as a separate facility replacing counterpart areas of the original Claymont High School next door. The rest of the building was added 10 years later as a replacement high school. As a result, the schools interior resembles a split-level house, Read said.

Another reminder of the time when it was new is the fact that it originally was designed as an all-electric building. The renovation has included installation of a boiler to provide more efficient gas heating.

That is illustrative of an often-overlooked aspect of the overall renovation program, Read said. "Sixty to 70 per cent of the work -- and the money -- goes into things the public never sees. No one ever comes in and tells you, 'I like what you've done with your boiler room'."

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