After nearly 2.5 years of construction – and many more of planning – Revelstoke’s new schools project will be pretty much done when Begbie View Elementary opens its doors to students this Thursday, Sept. 6.
Last Thursday morning the media was invited on a tour of the school as the final touches were being put on the new building. Workers from the builder Graham Construction were finishing up installation of the final items and teachers were setting up their new classrooms.
It’s a school that lives up to expectations, with a design reminiscent of the fantastic new high school, but on a smaller scale that reflects the students that will be attending.
When the new high school was going up, the media was invited for several tours along the way. We saw it when it was still lacking a roof and again less than two months before it opened, when it was mostly done but still seemed a long way off.
This was our first look inside the new elementary school. Many elements of the high school are present – the high ceilings, large windows, excellent lighting, similar use of wood, and amazing views.
“The same things we love in the high school, we have in the elementary school,” said Anne Cooper. “We tried to have the same quality in the elementary school but it’s a little different.
We started the tour at the main entrance, with its large glass doors surrounded by red exterior. To the right was the Neighbourhood Learning Centre and to the left the classroom wing.
Inside, the library was immediately to the right and across the hall was the office. A large multi-purpose room, with floor-to-ceiling windows extending up two storeys was on the left. The room will hold band class and aboriginal education but can also be used for community functions, said Cooper. It’s bright space also gives an open and airy feel to the entrance, she added.
We walked back to the hallway where Cooper proudly presented what she referred to as one of her few good ideas – a water fountain that doubles as a bottling station. A second spout at the top gives plenty of space for children to fill up their water bottles. “It’s my pride and joy,” she joked.
Across from the multi-purpose room was the gym. “Oversized for an elementary school by any standards,” said Cooper. A stage is built in at one side for school concerts.
Down the hallway was the brand new acrobats centre. Coaches Jef Kline and Heather Cretelli were busy going over the space, with its 30-metre long runway and 9-metre high ceilings.
“With this ceiling and this runway the club will do awesome,” said Kline, giving a thumbs up. “At the old club, some kids had to hold back because they were hitting the ceiling.”
An observation area was set up on the roof of the gym storage area for parents to watch their kids perform.
The acrobats gym is expected to open on Sept. 17, “If all goes well,” said Kline.
Cooper showed us into one room where workers from Interior Plumbing were working on the heating exchange system.
From there we walked upstairs. A hallway gave a view from above of the multi-purpose room on one side and the gym on the other. We would see outside to the playing fields, where landscapers were smoothing out the dirt and getting ready to lay the sod. The work was delayed by the heavy rains of June but it is expected to be finished by the end of next week.
The upstairs hallways were bright and beautiful, with the walls and ceiling made from wood logged in the Akolkolex region and milled by Downie Timber.
Large windows let in lots of light down one side of the hallway while the classrooms lined the other. The floor outside each classroom was painted a different colour, giving each a distinct identity.
We entered Kim Floyd’s grade 3/4 classroom as she was busy getting it set up. The desks were still stacked and boxes were waiting to be empty. “My favourite part is the sound system,” she said, pointing out the overhead projector that is a feature of every classroom.
Next door we ran into Sarah Newton, who will be teaching a split grade 5/6 class. She had her desks all lined up. I asked what she liked most about the school.
“I can see four mountains out my window,” she said. “At my last classroom I couldn’t even tell what the weather was outside.
“I’m excited to see the kids’ faces when they start,” she added.
For some teachers, the new elementary school will be their first full-time teaching experience. At the end of the upstairs hallway, Jenna Bauche was preparing her own classroom for the first time. Last year she spent time at Mountain View Elementary teaching grade one and now she was getting ready for the first class of her own in a brand-new school.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I can’t even believe it.”
We walked back downstairs. Outside, workers could be seen placing plants about. The school district is using ferns and dogwood.
The excitement continued through the teachers working in the downstairs classrooms. Andrea Rollheiser, who taught at Mount Begbie Elementary last year and will be teaching a grade 2/3 class this year, said she was really impressed. “I can’t believe I get to come here for work.”
We passed through a few more classrooms before being taken into the learning support centre, where Rory Luxmoore and Celeste Lucius, the school’s two support teachers were unpacking boxes of books.
Across the hall, principal Shan Jorgensen-Adam was in the computer lab where she was being taught how to use the school’s PA system. Earl Woodhurst, the district principal of operations, was with her.
“It’s been a long haul,” he said when asked how it felt to be winding down the new schools project. “I didn’t realize how much of my time it would take up.”
Attached to that room was the library – a large space that was still void of books when we walked through.
We passed through the office, where secretary Judy McAllister was getting her desk organized. She sat down briefly for a photo before we passed through the supplies area towards the teachers lounge.
The tour continued in the Neighbourhood Learning Centre, where a number of early childhood facilities have been placed together to better support children and parents. It’s been nicknamed the ‘Yellow School’ by children that have seen it, said Linda Chell, the executive director of the Revelstoke Childcare Society.
Located in its own wing, its where Mother Goose, Strong Start, pre-school, infant-toddler, group 3-5-year-old care, and four Corner Stones Child Care Centres have been co-located with Leap Land, the early learning lending library, speech and language clinic, and public health nurse.
“The services are going where the children are,” said Chell. “I think the positive impact on families is immeasurable. In five years we’ll see huge improvements because everything [is] in one space.”
The two kindergarten classes are also there, and its where the toys and books were scattered about as Linda Dickson and Sonia Gagne-Maitre got their respective rooms ready.
Every room in the NLC has bathrooms attached – with toilets and sinks designed to be at the right height for the children using them. That meant that in the infant-toddler space, the toilets were barely a foot off the ground.
In the office of the NLC we ran into Ramsey Brunton, the project manager from Graham Construction, and Les Zorn, the project superintendent. They were enjoying a quick lunch while in the midst of a hectic week putting all the final touches on the school.
After 2.5 years of construction and working with the school district to finalize the design details, everything should be finished by the end of September, said Brunton.
The biggest challenge, he said, was building the two schools around the old high school. That and making sure the school district was happy with everything. Lots of details of the new schools were determined as construction was ongoing.
Is the final product what he envisioned? “We thought it would look like a school, he replied. “It’s way beyond just a school, it’s almost like a university campus.”