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Construction Is Over — Let the Fun Continue

Fort Hunt celebrates renovations and renewed spirit.

Carol Coose, principal at Fort Hunt Elementary School, knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. Rather than stressing out during the 18 or so months of renovation at her school, she made the best of it.

"When the second-graders were studying simple machines, we brought them outside to watch the bricks being loaded on the inclined plane," she said.

She invited the contractors into class to speak about their careers and what they were doing to the building. The contractors also figured out a way to incorporate a series of student-designed tiles into the newly-laid wall.

"The whole process was not as painful as we thought. We got wonderful people," said Coose. "We were so badly in need of renovation. We gained extra space, a new library, computer lab, a GT classroom and a stage in the auditorium."

Everything at the school was upgraded. A new sprinkler system was installed; they never had one before. The phone system was upgraded, adding voice-mail capability for all the teachers. They even put in a new PA system.

It was only fitting that when the renovation was over, the school participated in a renovation celebration. Last Wednesday, every inch of the school was open for parents to see and admire. On display in the entry foyer was the newly re-established electronic bulletin board, created by Peggy Rukenbrod, instructional assistant; Lorrie Murphy, librarian; and Kay Sargent, PTA newsletter co-editor.

The cafeteria gleamed with new state-of-the-art equipment. New tile and flooring were apparent throughout the school. The new computer lab was open so that parents could see what their students were accomplishing with the newly installed hardware and software. David Dale, instructional assistant and technology expert, and Joyce Ann Callaghan, school-based technology specialist, were on hand to answer questions.

AND EVERYWHERE THE GUESTS WENT they found some form of culture. There was music, there was art and there was drama.

"We wanted to show everybody how we do the arts," said Coose.

Artwork by both students and staff members was exhibited throughout the school.

Andreas Barrett's vocal and instrumental group, The Rub, was in the cafeteria to welcome guests. In the auditorium, Fort Hunt band students, directed by Jane Morgan, played the “Celebratory March,” and Bruce Slawter, retired U.S. Air Force officer, sang “God Bless America” and “Kathleen Mavourneen.”

Bonnie Rideout, U.S. national Scottish fiddle champion, was full of energy as she led the Fort Hunt Chorus, directed by Nancy Pope, music teacher and choral director, in excerpts from her CD. Amy Duma, senior program director at the John F. Kennedy Center, spoke about Fort Hunt's partnership with the Kennedy Center.

Elsewhere in the school, Kathlyn Avila-Reyes, art teacher and artist, held a visual arts classroom discussion. Kim James Bey, actress and acting and voice instructor at Howard University, conducted an interdisciplinary workshop, “Brushless Painting.” Donna Brinitzer, math instructional assistant, showed how math could be fun, while Haskell Small, concert pianist and composer and member of the Washington Conservatory, discussed the collaboration of “The Red-Eyed Creature” with some of the sixth-grade students.

Ulysses James, music director and conductor of the Mount Vernon Orchestra, and members of the Mount Vernon Orchestra played excerpts from “The Red-Eyed Creature.”

James has been working with the school since 1999, and he said, "It [the success] is a testimony to the school, in large part to Carol Coose. She's very creative and deserves a heck of a lot of credit. She's created a program that's phenomenal."

Suzanne Parrish, art teacher and coordinator of programs for students and teachers, was accompanied by Peter Burroughs, tenor with the Washington Opera, while David Burk, fifth-grade teacher and artist, discussed the creation of an original student opera, along with some of his students. Gayla Kobialka, music teacher and professional organist, led her fourth-grade students in a bell chime performance, and Peg Koetsch, found and director of Learning Insights and an artist in residence at the Kennedy Center, discussed Museums-in-Progress. Eileen Yaeger, third-grade Spanish immersion teacher, displayed e-mail messages from the students' pen-pals in the Canary Islands.

THE SHINING STAR in the evening was the Battle of Bull Run tableau. Created and directed by Coose, it featured 16 students depicting various characters from Paul Fleischman's book, “Bull Run.” Coose had attended a class with some other teachers at the Kennedy Center and learned how to create a tableau. She was also inspired by Sean Layne, artist in residence, who just happened to be doing a program at the school last week.

"He told me it was a Broadway production," said Coose.

As the fifth- and sixth-grade orchestra students, directed by David Bertolotti, violinist and strings teacher, performed “Ashokan Farewell,” the students stepped into place against a colorful backdrop. Each character was spotlighted by a lantern as Nancy Sage, James McGovern, Dotty Godley, Penny Viar and Suzanne Slawter read the story. Accompanying the orchestra were Bonnie Rideout, Bruce Slawter, members of the Mount Vernon Orchestra and the Fort Hunt Band flautists, directed by Deni Humphreys, band teacher.

Coose was pleased with the celebration. "It was a lot of preparation, but every day I receive e-mails from the community, telling me how much they enjoyed it."

Fort Hunt won't be resting for too long. In April, it will present its “Celebration Renaissance,” an event featuring numerous kinds of art and international desserts.