Big things — as in 11,000 cubic feet of rubber chips — are happening at Wilson Elementary School and even bigger things are in the historic school's future.

Last weekend, some 40 volunteers spread the rubber chips — like wood chips, only softer — over both playground areas at Wilson, giving students a new, safer and better looking base for their playgrounds. The chips are made from recycled tires. They were obtained through a special grant, hauled in by a volunteer and spread by the hard workers from New Life Christian Church who toiled through a long and rainy Saturday so students would have the playground equipment available for school on Monday.

As part of the grant, more chips will be brought in to form the surface for a new all-weather track that circles the school's Field of Dreams baseball diamond.

While the rubber chips used for the playgrounds and the track were paid for by a special grant for use of the recycled materials, plans are being made to refurbish the entire school using funds from a bond measure approved by Wilmar School District voters last year.

Already in place is new fencing around the entire perimeter of the school grounds and an impressive new computer lab with 30 computers, enough to accommodate an entire class at one time. Teachers have new laptops and there are interactive projectors in all second through sixth-grade classrooms.

While students and teachers are already noticing and benefiting from the new technology, the entire community will see what is happening over the next two summers. Plans have already been submitted to the Department of State Architect for a complete remodeling of the school office and front entrance to the school. The plans call for a new archway that will give the school entrance a look similar to the original Wilson School. Commemorative bricks, to be sold as part of the efforts to raise funds for the new track, will line the walk as students and visitors pass through the new portal.

The new office will have an expanded reception area, a new principal's office, a conference room and teacher's work room.

The plan calls for every classroom to be redone with new windows, paint and other improvements. Every school bathroom will also get a makeover, including new floor tiles.

Hoppes said the needed improvements are only possible because the voters were willing to support their school through the passage of the bond measure. "I'm thankful to be in Petaluma where people are so generous and kind," he said.

"We're going to make the school a more pleasing place to be for the kids, the faculty and the parents."

The work will start this summer. "We're ready to begin the day after school ends," Hoppes said.