CHICAGO (CBS) — While students are learning from home, crews at Edgar Allan Poe Elementary Classical School are hard at work on an expansion project to allow the school to increase enrollment.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory visited their empty school to see the exciting transformation that awaits students when they’re allowed back inside.
You could sense the chaos of kids, but the hallways almost seemed haunted. It was eerily quiet at Poe Elementary; projects pinned all over the walls, but the craft makers only able to be there in spirit.
Principal Eric Dockery is one of the only adults allowed in the building, because of COVID-19. He’s grateful he can check in on classes, virtually, but in reality he’s crushing on days his students were in the building.
“They want to run up, and hug, and give a high five, and say ‘Hey Mr. Dockery!’ And I say, ‘Hey to you, too!” he said.
Dockery said he needs to keep up the enthusiasm. It’s not just to set an example during the online morning announcements.
The K-6 grade school is in the middle of a huge makeover. The expansion involves adding 7th and 8th graders.
“I had a virtual open house,” he said.
COVID-19 prevents Dockery, the official recruiter, from giving tours to prospective parents.
“But it was great, because all of my teachers came in, virtually, and we still got across this family atmosphere,” he said, displaying an infectious optimism, though he’s sad on the inside. “The noise we hear now is due to construction. Not due to kids laughter, and playing, and talking.”
Even in this void, he finds a silver lining.
“In the library, our custodians have been hard at work taking books off shelves, putting them in boxes,” he said.
Renovations also were able to start earlier with kids learning from home.
“Our gym, for example, is going to be converted into classrooms. We wouldn’t be able to work on that if kids were here,” Dockery said.
It’s an exciting prospect for students to return to, whenever that may be.
“The challenging part is making sure we are doing the right thing,” Dockery said.
Dockery and principals across Illinois are tasked with preparing for school in the fall without knowing yet if students can come back. He said it’s okay with him if the decision doesn’t come out until August; he and his team will figure it out.