Students return to renovated schools

Jim Grant / Nevada appeal

Jim Grant / Nevada appeal

Destiny Hernandez, 10, showed up to her first day at Empire Elementary School on Monday to find her old classrooms, housed in portable buildings, had been removed. Instead, two new wings had been added to the school.

"It has more room so we don't have to get squished like last year," she said.

Nearly 25,000 additional square feet were added to the school as part of the 2010 rollover bond, eliminating the need for the 11 portable buildings that had been used as classrooms.

"It feels like a brand new school," Principal Evelyn Allred said of the school being housed under one roof again.

Each grade level is now housed in its own wing, distinguished by different-colored hallways.

"I love it," said Dustin Cater, 10. "I love how the colors pop."

While most students and teachers were happy with the renovation, there were some drawbacks on the first day.

"It's new to us, so it's hard to find our way around," said Omar Godinez, 10. "But after a few days, we'll get the whole building."

The old playground was destroyed to make room for the expansion, creating the opportunity to build a new one.

"There's even grass," said fifth-grader Garrette Magana. "This is the first time we've had grass at our school."

Eagle Valley Middle School opened its doors Monday to some changes, as well.

"'Where's the front entrance?' was the main question today," said Principal Lee Conley.

The school's entrance was shifted downstairs in the addition to the east of the former entrance, with the front office located just inside the doors.

Juan Carillo, 13, said he liked the openness of the design, though it will take some adjustment to navigate the addition.

"It's a little tougher, but it's manageable," he said.

Luis Gutierrez, 12, said officials prepared them well for the upcoming changes.

"They told us it was going to look like this," he said. "They had posters, so we kind of knew already."

Josseline Melgoza, 12, was happy with the changes, as well.

"The bathroom has mirrors," she said.

The new gymnasium, which will seat about 750 people, should be finished by October.

The improvements to Empire Elementary School and Eagle Valley Middle School cost about $13 million from the 10-year rollover bond, approved by voters in 2010.

In the first phase, every school in the district will receive improvements ranging from heating and lighting upgrades to increased handicapped accesses and heightened security. It will cost about $25 million.

The second phase will be $10 million to begin in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2014. It is expected to address needs at Pioneer High School and in career and technical arts at Carson High School.

The third phase of the bond will be designated to upgrade technology throughout the district.

Keith Shaffer, project manager for the Carson City School District, said all the bond projects came together over the summer and were ready for the first day of school.

"It all seem to go very well," he said. "At Eagle Valley Middle School, we were able to get a lot of traffic off the streets. Folks went right to the new drop-off area. It was smooth. Seeliger might take a couple of weeks before everyone gets the hang of it."

Superintendent Richard Stokes made the rounds and was pleased with what he saw.

"I've had a lot of first days in my career, and this one of the most exciting for me," he said. "I can't remember a more perfect day. The sun was out in a bright, blue sky. And the kids and parents were enthusiastic. It was awesome."

Stokes said preliminary enrollment numbers should be available in about 10 days.

"We're not anticipating a huge jump, and we're also hoping we won't lose too many," he said.

If you go

The Carson City School Board will hear reports on updated costs associated with the bond at its meeting tonight.

WHAT: Carson City School Board meeting

WHEN: 7 p.m. today

WHERE: Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.


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