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MHS will unveil new science labs to the public on Monday
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Showing off the new biology lab at Martinsville High School are (from left) Principal Aji Dixon; Marnié Martin, a junior at the school and a student representative to the Martinsville School Board; and teacher Steven Epton. The public is welcome to view the new science labs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Steven Epton is an earth science teacher, but space has been on his mind lately.

Not outer space, but inner — specifically, the spacious new classroom at Martinsville High School (MHS) which he soon will move into.

Epton now teaches in a former home economics classroom. There is a wall in the middle of the room, he said, which makes it hard to do activities.

MHS will unveil seven new science classrooms to the public from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday before a Martinsville School Board meeting there.

The classrooms, on the first floor in an area that formerly housed offices and special education classes, are part of ongoing renovations at MHS. They will replace four classrooms elsewhere on campus that lacked storage space and modern equipment and were cramped due to their odd shapes.

Students doing laboratory work have bumped into each other as they moved around in science classes, said Marnié Martin, a junior and student representative on the Martinsville School Board.

Epton beamed as he walked around his new classroom Friday afternoon.

“I haven’t seen you smile that big” before, city school Superintendent Pam Heath told him.

“I’m excited,” Epton said.

The new classrooms have large tables where students can sit on stools and listen to lectures, do class work and perform experiments.

There will be no need for students to move from desks in one part of the room to tables in another part when they do experiments, which reduces learning time, according to school officials.

Martin said she likes being able to sit at tables instead of in desks because students will “have more interaction” with each other. That is important, she mentioned, because most work in science labs involves group projects.

Sinks with hot and cold running water are in each science classroom. In all but the physics classroom, the tables where students will sit have sinks. The plumbing is made of materials that will prevent pipes from corroding if liquid chemicals are poured down the drains, Heath said.

Water is not needed as much in physics lessons as in biology and chemistry lessons, so fewer sinks are needed in the classroom, Epton said.

The new classrooms also have equipment such as racks where glass beakers can hang to dry after being washed, ventilation systems to remove chemical fumes and overhead showers that students and teachers can use if their skin or eyes come into contact with hazardous chemicals.

Science teachers advised school officials on what equipment was needed in the new classrooms, Heath said.

Each classroom has been designed to accommodate a specific science. For example, biology classroom windows allow direct sunlight in so plants can be grown inside, and chemistry classrooms have side rooms in which flammable and corrosive chemicals can be safely mixed and stored.

However, classrooms are designed with enough flexibility to accommodate lessons in other types of science if necessary, Heath said.

MHS eventually plans to provide more types of science courses, Principal Aji Dixon said. Discussions are under way on what needs to be taught.

School officials said science teachers will move into their new classrooms in the next few weeks. The move cannot be done overnight, they said, because precautions must be taken in moving chemicals and fragile equipment.

Old science classrooms gradually will be converted for career and technical education programs such as health occupations and television production, Heath said. There are no immediate funds to do that, she said.

Security and cafeteria improvements also are among planned renovations at MHS.

Martinsville City Council in late 2011 approved using up to $9.3 million in federal Qualified School Construction Bonds to cover the cost of the upgrades.

Heath said she could not pinpoint the cost of developing the new science classrooms alone.

All of the renovations are expected to be finished by the start of the 2013-14 school year, with the heaviest construction occurring this summer when students are not on campus, according to Heath.


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