The first day of school is already exciting for most kids, but the thrill is amplified when they’re walking through the doors of a brand-new building.
“Dude. It’s like a freakin’ hotel in here,” said 11-year-old Carter Scott as he took in the new Westview Elementary School in northwest Spokane.
Westview Elementary is one of a handful of new schools in the region opening this week. Two are specialized schools emphasizing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education – the Riverpoint Academy for Mead School District juniors and seniors, located on the Riverpoint higher education campus near downtown Spokane, and Kootenai Technical Education Center in North Idaho, which opened Tuesday. Two new middle schools open in Cheney today.
Westview sixth-grader Caleb Gottselig said of that school’s former building, “We could barely fit the whole school in there. I like the bigger classrooms.”
Westview sits on 7 acres at the corner of North Moore Street and West Bismark Avenue. During the last three years, the 58,000-square-foot elementary school has been constructed alongside the original 1955 structure, said Mark Anderson, Spokane Public Schools assistant superintendent. The school and the fixtures cost about $17 million and were paid for by a 2009 voter-approved bond. The facility now has room for 550 students. The old building could hold 350.
The children are divided by grade level into four wings of the two-story building – kindergarten through second grade on the first floor and grades 3-6 on the second floor. All the classrooms have 950 square feet of space, which is typical for new schools. In addition, the school’s auditorium can accommodate up to 800 people by removing a partition between that space and the gym.
“This really needed to happen a long time ago,” Westview parent Tatyana Campton said. Her son, Timothy, is a third-grader. “The excitement of the new school, and the way it’s organized, will give him a little boost in learning.”
Westview Principal Cathy Comfort was beaming with pride as she welcomed students and parents with the fanfare of a ribbon-cutting right before school started.
“My hat is off to the community,” Comfort said. “Through all of the construction, people kept a smile on their face. This is truly a gift to the community.”
She added, “It’s going to be a busy day, but it’s a fabulous day.”