By Mike Dunn 

New School builds community

Residents, community members thrilled to see what the new Hanna Elementary can provide for town


Mike Dunn

Hanna High School alumni, former teacher and 72-year resident of Hanna, Ed McAtee, cuts the ribbon in the entry way of the new Hanna Elementary School in front of a large crowd. McAtee, among other residents in Hanna, hope the new school will revitalize their community and strengthen their kids' education.

When you enter into the new Hanna Elementary School, it's like stepping into the entrance of a coal mine.

The 71 students will walk through the long, rounded tunnels, "held up" by imitation wooden trusses, entrance to go to school. To the side, a mural depicts the Hanna's rich history - from the first immigrant coal miners who lived in tents, to the students holding shovels to breaking ground on the new Elementary.

The mines in Hanna are all abandoned, but Hanna Elementary School Principal Mark Shipp said the students at Hanna Elementary will continue to dig - for knowledge, that is.

On Oct. 7, crowds gathered at the new Hanna Elementary School for the unveiling of the newly-constructed school. In attendance was Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD#2) administrators, board members, Hanna elementary and HEM students and staff, parents, community members and Carbon County Commissioners.

"There are very few things more exciting than opening up a school" Carbon County School District No. 2 Superintendent Jim Copeland told the crowd at the ceremony. "Schools are the heartbeat of the community, and this is such a great, great facility ... we intend to use this facilities in any way it may be fruitful to the community and to the town of Hanna."

While the new school will undoubtedly provide more opportunities for the students, it may also provide an opportunity for Hanna to revitalize their community. Since the 1980's, the population of Hanna dried up with the coal mines. Even with the population plummeting, the new school provides the town with a rise of town pride.

"It gives a lot of hope more than anything," CCSD#2 board member from the Hanna area Kay Lynn Palm said. "It gives everyone a very positive attitude. There hasn't been anything new in the community like this for a very long time. It kind of breathes a little bit of life into the community."

"It's important to the revitalization of the community," Shipp said. "If I were a parent looking to come to this town, I would want my kids to go to school here. I see that, and I just look at the walls here and I just see this as a reflection of the history of the community. It just fits."

When the elementary school was planned, the goal was for it to blend historic preservation with a technology-based classroom learning experience for its history. CCSD#2 board member Mike McGraw, from Hanna, said keeping the old Hanna gym a part of the design was pivotal for the community; as the gym can be used for events outside the school. Without the elementary gym, there is only one other facility in the town to host sports and events.

"It can be a community-involved facility," McGraw said. "Plus it's a beautiful gym."

Both Palm and McGraw complimented former Superintendent Bob Gates and everyone else involved with the project for completing an incredible building.

Though most Hanna residents enjoy the seclusion which comes of rural life, it does present challenges in the classroom. Being able to provide opportunities to students at Hanna Elementary takes top-notch technological features. Shipp said the communication and technology features in the classrooms assist with outreach education, and can help students learn beyond the walls of the classroom.

"We can bring distance learning into the classroom," Shipp said. "Experts from outside of the school can talk to the kids [through live streaming]."

Shipp was also impressed with the modern set up of the building. The classrooms encompass a information center, which contains books and other media items to enhance student-learning experience.

"I feel like in the information age, the information center should be the center of the building," Shipp said.

Even long-time residents of the town enjoyed the change of a new school. Ed McAtee, a Hanna High School alumni and former teacher at Hanna, cut the ribbon which officially opened the school to the public. McAtee said even though schools have changed dramatically since he was a student, he thought the new elementary was a fantastic edition to the town he had called home for 72 years.

"(The school) just enhances everything. It's something we have needed for a long time," McAtee said. "It's someone for us to be proud of again, and I think it's just something we've needed and now we have it ... it's just beautiful."


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