The ribbon was cut three months ago for a new addition at Schuyler Central High School that includes six classrooms and a music room.
Since then, students and teachers have been adjusting to their new setting.
One thing the addition eliminated is the need for students and teachers to leave the main building to access temporary classrooms. The portable classrooms were removed last fall to make room for a new parking lot completed last month.
Freshman Melissa Escobar said the change has been convenient for her.
“Now we don’t have to wait for the office to let us in,” Escobar said. “That means there is no more waiting for the doors to open while we stand in the cold. The (portable) classrooms also felt way too small.”
Fellow freshman Eric Encarnacion agreed with Escobar, saying "there is nothing I don't like about" the addition.
Some actually miss the portable classrooms, including sophomore Mackenzie Johnson.
“The classrooms weren’t bad,” she said. “It was nice to get out of the building and get fresh air for a couple of seconds.”
Each classroom in the new wing is roughly 800 square feet and the music room is around 2,500 square feet.
Freshman Dominic Semerad spends a portion of his day there honing his skills on the trumpet.
“The old band room was small and really dark,” Semerad said. “This is definitely a lot bigger and brighter, and our arms aren’t hitting each other anymore.”
English teacher Mandy Yosten said the new environment is a welcome change.
“It’s convenient being inside,” Yosten said. “Kids aren’t spending lots of time out of the classroom and it’s all-around very spacious. It’s also nice to be close to the other English teachers so we can collaborate easier.”
Yosten’s colleague, Drey Keairnes, enjoys another perk.
“I really like the new projector board setup,” he said. “It lets me use my computer to project and my iPad to control the projection as I monitor students around the room. It’s definitely a blessing to have this much space and access to technology in the classroom.”
Catherine Novacek flipped through a large, yellow scrapbook while sitting at her kitchen table.
The pages were filled with newspaper clippings from previous decades advertising and covering local blood drives.
Most of those drives were coordinated by Novacek.
Her involvement began in 1994 when a friend asked Novacek to help with a blood drive.
“I never realized I would become a coordinator,” she said. “I mostly scheduled appointments and made sure the Oak Ballroom was available, but I’ve been doing it for just about 24 years.”
The Oak Ballroom has been the host for local blood drives since 1952, she said, and others are held at Schuyler Central High School, CHI Health Schuyler, QC Supply and Cargill.
When Novacek moved to Schuyler from rural Butler County, she noticed there was a dire need for blood drives. There was another turning point for the local woman.
“In 1988 I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “I made a deal with God. I said, 'If I make it out of this, I’m going to do something to give back,' and that’s why I do this. This is my way to serve and give back.”
Of course, there have been a few changes since Novacek began organizing blood drives. One is technology.
“Back then we would just write all the appointments down on this paper,” she said, pointing to a lengthy spreadsheet. “But now it’s all done on the computer. I don’t really like that. But it’s interesting how people can make appointments online and see what the schedule is. The computer tells when the last donation a person made was and it knows when a person isn’t eligible. It’s all mind-boggling.”
Another change is how blood drives are advertised.
“Here is an ad from the Schuyler Sun about a drive,” she said of the advertisement dated Nov. 16, 1972. “It has every single donor published in here along with their gallon levels. Now if someone gives me their information, it’s classified. I like how it’s all very private now.”
Much of Novacek's job now is promoting upcoming blood drives.
“I make a list of the contacts for the donors, then I always make sure to schedule a good time for the Oak Ballroom,” she said. “I get in touch with the Boy Scouts so they can pass out the posters I give them. It’s just a lot of contacting and scheduling.”
Coordinating a successful blood drive has gotten more challenging over time, but that doesn't deter Novacek.
“This town has just changed so much,” she said. “We used to get 200 pints of blood every drive, but now the population has changed and a lot of farms aren’t around anymore. I just hope we can get people to understand its importance. You never know when someone may need to have blood.”
A blood drive honoring Novacek will be held 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6, at the Oak Ballroom.
Schuyler Central High School students used their artistic flair to design a mural for the new Schuyler Public Library building.
The project took a full week to complete with around 60 students involved.
The mural, which is in the future young adult room, depicts the history of Schuyler.
Senior Guadalupe Rodriguez led the design team.
“It was a lot of fun to unify all of it,” Rodriguez said. “It was a lot of fun to hear all of the different ideas come together.”
In addition to SCHS art teacher Michael Trotter, the students had another pair of experienced eyes to help them along in the process. Kim Darling from the Nebraska Arts Council offered advice through a grant awarded to Schuyler Public Library and Schuyler Community Schools.
“This mural tells the story of Schuyler,” Darling said. “It shows us the iconography of indigenous Pawnee persons as well as pieces from Czech culture. The research we all did to convey the desired effect was extensive, but this has turned out to be a very meaningful piece to us all. The style holds contemporary, historical and regional iconography to show all who look at this piece just a microcosm of what is happening in Schuyler now.”
Mastodons can be seen roaming the land among Czechoslovakian elements from Schuyler’s past. Animals intermingle with robots and there's a healthy splash of vibrant colors.
One side of the mural features a silhouette telling the story while another silhouette listens on the opposite side.
Sophomore Jaci Grado said the experience has been “really surreal."
“I’ve never done anything this big,” Grado said. “I’ve never been able to show off my work like this in such a public setting. But I’m glad all of Schuyler will be able to see what we have done.”
Trotter said the project was a unique undertaking.
“This was a full collaboration from the entire art department,” he said. “We had everyone come in, even kids who weren’t in art. They wanted to have their voices heard in such a big way. This is truly a Schuyler experience.”
Schuyler Community Schools is getting a new school bus.
During the Jan. 15 school board meeting, Superintendent Dan Hoesing proposed the district purchase a 71-passenger bus for $62,250.
“It’s a pretty straight-line bus with straight-back seats,” Hoesing said. “The bus was brought up last Thursday (Jan. 11) and the board committee went through it. It has 29,000 miles on it, so it’s not new, but we were able to get it at half price.”
Hoesing said a 43-passenger bus manufactured in 1998 will be the oldest model in the district's fleet following the purchase.
The new bus will be used to transport elementary students.
“This way we’ll have two 71-passenger buses,” Hoesing said. “We need another route for the larger class sizes in the elementary. We’ll also be able to take the class size on trips.”
School board member Chuck Misek recently reviewed the new bus and its condition. He said it is in “pretty good shape” with good tires and part of the warranty remaining.
“It will get us by for a long, long time,” Misek said.
The school board also elected officers for 2018 with nobody changing positions. The officers remain Richard Brabec as president, Brian Vavricek as vice president, Virginia Semerad as secretary and Misek as treasurer.
In other business, Schuyler Elementary School teacher Samantha Kelly submitted her resignation in January.
“We want to thank Samantha Kelly for her service to the district,” Semerad said.