For the first time since the 2008-’09 school year, students in the Freeman School District are returning to campus without construction crews and portables.
On Monday, during its annual back-to-school barbecue, district officials dedicated the newly completed elementary school and the brand new Palouse Regional Transportation Cooperative.
“We’re just tickled to death,” said Superintendent Randy Russell.
Construction began in late summer 2009, after the district successfully passed a $19.5 million bond in 2008. Since then, the high school was rebuilt, a multipurpose building was constructed, the elementary school got a major overhaul and the transportation co-op was constructed. The buildings not only serve the students and teachers who arrive at the campus daily; members of the community are invited to use the facilities as well.
That community came out in force Monday for the barbecue. Parents and students milled around the shady courtyard between the multipurpose building and the elementary school. High school students came down to enjoy the meal, meeting friends they hadn’t seen all summer. The district’s Parent Teacher Student Association opened a booth to recruit new parents and the line for students and their parents to sign up for the FIRST LEGO League went from the elementary school to the multipurpose room.
“This was the dream,” said Sergio Hernandez, who retired as district superintendent last year. He said he imagined families and students milling around the area as a community.
“To come back and see it in reality is just tremendous,” he said.
Elementary Principal Lisa Phelan said the back-to-school barbecue is traditionally one of the most attended events of the school year. It gives students a chance to come and meet teachers, see classrooms and get the syllabus.
The meals were prepared in the multipurpose building’s new kitchen, which opened a year ago.
“It’s a great way to start the year off,” said Raeann Ducar, nutrition services supervisor.
One of the highlights of the event was the opening of the new preschool room. Children were playing on the toys while parents met the teachers.
The program has moved around campus during construction, but teacher Barb Gady is glad to be settled.
“This is our home and we’re happy,” Gady said.
The students around the building were excited to start the new year as well.
Olga Kopytina, 16, is getting ready to start her junior year at Freeman High School, and came to the event with her mother and four brothers and sisters. Olga and her mother were helping Andrew Kopytin, 6, find his desk in Chris Cochrane’s classroom.
“I like it,” Olga said of the elementary school. “It’s really nice.”
The Palouse Regional Transportation Cooperative was part of the bond voters approved in 2008. The state matched the funds for the building by 90 percent.
Russell said the building allows the district to combine efforts with the Tekoa and Rosalia school districts to purchase fuel at a discount. Although there are only two other districts involved now, Russell hopes that will change.
“We’re hoping to work with more school districts in the area,” he said.
The evening wrapped up with dedication ceremonies at the two new buildings. Former superintendents, current school board members and staff were there to see the official ribbon-cutting.
“This was built because you put your trust in us as a school district,” school board president Randy Primmer told the crowd.
He said it was a special occasion for him to be there, since his father was on the school board when the old elementary school opened 30 years ago.
At the transportation co-op, Char Trejbal, transportation administrator, said her one wish for the building would have been covered parking for the buses. She got that, plus the new building.
The campus renovation was designed by ALSC Architects and the contractor was Walker Construction.