When Julie Billiart Schools’ Akron campus (JBA) students and faculty return this fall, they can expect to see some big changes to their school building.
When Julie Billiart Schools first purchased the Akron building in 2016, it needed serious work to become the beautiful, clean, and safe school that now serves almost 90 children.
“When we first purchased the building, we had a vision for what it could become, but it definitely needed many updates,” said Jason Wojnicz, JB Akron Principal. “In its original state, it wasn’t conducive to the learning environment that we expect. We replaced lighting and floors, tore down walls, painted extensively, and added doorways to make the school fit our model of one main classroom and one resource room for each grade.”
Even after all that work, Wojnicz knew that as enrollment increased JBA would need to make necessary functional and cosmetic improvements to better serve students and families. In 2019, JBA began improvements to the school’s gym - a large, multi-use space that converts into a cafeteria during the lunch hour. Last summer, new lighting and fresh paint made the gym feel more up to date. This summer, one more big step would make countless little footsteps happy.
A new, state-of-the-art gym floor will provide more comfort and appeal to gym, indoor recess, assemblies and events, lunch, small group sessions, open houses, and other events that utilize the JBA gym. The “flexiflor” is a quieter, more comfortable, more attractive, and more hygienic solution that will last for years to come. The new floor is under construction now and will be ready for use when school reopens.
Adjacent to the gym is a large kitchen that JBA is converting into a new art therapy room. With more natural light and much more space, the space will become a treasured spot for group art therapy sessions and one-on-one or small group work.
JB students participate in group art therapy once a week and small group or individual art therapy sessions occur daily. Art therapy, which is included in JB’s tuition, can help students who are struggling with peer relationships, social or emotional challenges, and internal conflict. The new art room is slated to be completed by October.
The existing art room will turn into a much-needed staff room to give teachers a place to prepare for lessons, eat lunch, and meet one-on-one or in small groups. By the end of the summer, school bathrooms will be updated with new floors, sinks, toilets, and paint.
Upstairs, a portion of the JBA Chapel is being lovingly repurposed into a literacy center. While the original Chapel will still provide a worship space for monthly mass and prayer, the back portion of pews have been removed to open up the space for a library and student-centric seating arrangements. The new space can accommodate an entire class and will be used as a reading space, an alternative work space, and a meeting area. JBA just installed new carpet and is currently ordering bookshelves and flexible seating.
When they’re not enjoying the literacy center or playing on the new gym floor, students can enjoy new features to the JBA playground. JBA is expanding the playground area to give students even more room to run and play. Surrounding the playground will be a new fence that is higher, more stable, and more attractive.
The addition of playground swings are not only one more fun activity, but also a proprioceptive exercise that gives students an opportunity to decompress during the day. A new drainage system, generously donated by a community partner, will keep the playground clean and dry for even more days of play.
“We know that our school environment is welcoming because of the actions and kindness of our staff,” said Wojnicz. “These improvements make it even more physically and aesthetically welcoming. We want our kids to feel proud of their school.”