Teachers, former teachers wowed by Beaty renovations; now it’s public’s turn to tour

The bright red numbers of digital clocks stand above decorated-tile alcoves almost 100 years old.

In some rooms, modern computer and science labs fill bright spaces. In others, tall, arching windows hark back to simpler times.

The students don’t know what blackboards are. Smartboards are omnipresent.

Beaty-Warren Middle School has changed a lot in two years.

The $16.2 million renovation project made wholesale changes throughout the building.

Last Monday, teachers and administrators unveiled their building to colleagues and former colleagues. A community open house is set for 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 27.

The limited open house gave educators a chance to come in and see the changes.

About 150 current and former teachers accepted the invitation.

“It was a great turnout,” Assistant Principal Amy Stimmell said. “It felt like a Beaty reunion.”

“We had so many retired Beaty teachers, administrators and staff in addition to current Warren County School District staff,” Principal Rhonda Decker said. “Because it wasn’t so crowded, it gave us the chance to really enjoy everyone and have conversations.”

The visitors were impressed.

“Everybody just loved the building,” said Judy Gibson, who spent 34 years teaching math at Beaty. “The restructuring… they did such a good job of moving everything around. It’s just fantastic.”

“It’s awesome,” said Terry Borger, who started at Beaty in 1978 with Gibson and spent her 34 years there teaching special education, reading, and language arts. “The lighting is the biggest (change). It’s so bright and cheerful.”

“I wish it had been like this when I worked here,” said Pam Lewis, who was a school psychologist for eight years in the 1990s.

“It’s light… bright. It’s not the dungeon feel anymore,” said Nancy Ondrasik, who started at Beaty as assistant principal in the 1990s and served two years as principal. “I like that the architecture is still intact. They kept the integrity of the building. I have to give them credit for that.”

Portions of the building’s interior were retained. In particular, the tiled water fountain alcoves show off some of the detail work.

Ronnieann and Doug Walters both attended Beaty, and Ronnieann was a teacher until 2002.

As she was signing in, Ronnieann said, “It’s blowing my mind. It’s different.”

When Doug first started his tour, he didn’t even recognize the place. “If you told me I was in Beaty right now, I’d have said you were out of your mind.”

But an hour later he’d found some familiar sights. “There’s still enough of the old Beaty you can tell where you are,” he said.

“There’s enough to give it the character,” Ronnieann agreed. “I’m impressed.”

The changes were for the better, Doug said. “The lighting is a whole lot better. The brightness, the airiness is much better.” He said the old building was “dark and medieval.”

“I really like how they were able to keep the parts of the old building,” said Elizabeth Bauer, who was the school’s third principal and first female principal. “It’s drastically different. The improvements certainly lend to learning. I like the layout, especially the library.”

She also commented on the open spaces and the improved lighting.

“It’s beautiful,” said Larry Kraft, a reading teacher from 1985 to 1996. “All the technology and everything is wonderful. It’s all brightened up. It’s not gloomy any more.”

Dottie Wingert was a home economics teacher in the school district until 1984. She started at Beaty in 1967. She spent time talking with the current home ec – now known as family and consumer science – teacher Ruby Pope.

In her seven years at Beaty, Pope saw her space go from three kitchen set-ups to six, seven if you count her demonstration area. One of those spaces is handicapped accessible and more space means students have more time hands-on. The mirror over Pope’s space allows students to see what’s going on on the stove top from their seats.

“I love it,” she said.

The life skills suite has separate spaces for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and classroom space. It also has new bathroom and shower facilities. “We had one large classroom” before the renovation, life skills teacher Jackie Barnett said. “There was a lot of crossover noise.”

“Now we can separate more, depending on what the students need,” she said. “We can give our students a lot more within our building.”

When Ronnieann Walters saw the lab stations and sinks in her old classroom, she wasn’t sure she was in the right place. “I taught science with none of this,” she said. “If I wanted water I walked down to the restroom, got water in a bucket, and carried it back.”

“The labs, we didn’t have anything like that,” said Mary Kopf, who attended Beaty and taught science there from 1968 to 1978. The school was bigger then. She had 35 to 38 students in most classes. “Twenty-eight was my smallest,” she said.

“The hallways are totally different,” Kopf said. “It’s nice. Very, very nice. I think they did very well.”

Dick and Dusky Merenick were both students and teachers at Beaty. “I was here from 1959 to 1999 with a few years out for college,” Dick said. He taught seventh- and eighth-grade social studies. “Those are tough years,” he said. “They changed a lot.”

In front of one room, he told his grandson Collin Ellis that it had been his classroom but “we didn’t have all this fancy stuff.”

“It’s so much brighter… the whole place,” Dick said. “The biggest thing is they were able to keep the plan of the building and fit things in.”

In the gymnasium, Lee Chew, who coached at the school in 1964, said, “It’s brighter. It’s bigger. It’s a more modern-day facility.”

“It’s nice. It doesn’t look like a dungeon any more,” said Laura Chew, who taught French at Beaty from 1964 to 1974. “I hope the kids appreciate it.”

“I am just overwhelmed,” Kopf said. “It’s nice you had a separate open house. I’m so glad I came.”

“Watching them see the school – some of them for the first time since they retired – was like seeing all of the wonderful improvements and changes all over again,” Decker said.

Like Pope and Barnett, many current staff members were on hand to show off their new rooms and explain the changes to the visitors.

“I was extremely impressed with the faculty,” Bauer said. “They stayed and were here to help. They’re here because they want to be here.”

Tuesday’s open house will feature performances by the school’s bands, choruses, and orchestra, a basket auction, ice cream social, videos, a make-and-take art project, student displays, and historic and interactive displays. Warren Public Library will have a library card sign-up event and A Safe Place will have an informational display.