Hundreds of parents, children and community leaders packed the multipurpose room and the gymnasium at the brand-new Riverbend Elementary last week to get their first look at the new school before it opens on Sept. 6.
The standing room only crowd broke into cheers and applause when principal Jeff Dufresne said, “Welcome to the new Riverbend Elementary School!”
Dufresne was the principal of Adams Elementary for 10 years before accepting the position at Riverbend, located at 17720 E. Mission Ave. in Greenacres. “This was an opportunity I, for one, couldn’t pass up.”
The only hitch in the dedication ceremony was that Mission Avenue is fully closed for road construction, but cars were allowed to access the parking lot for the evening.
The design of the school is the same design used for Liberty Creek and Ponderosa elementary schools and Dufresne said he often visited Liberty Creek, tape measure in hand, to go over details and ask questions.
After community input, the school was named Riverbend because of the nearby bend in the Spokane River and the mascot is Ripple the Otter. Dufresne said he likes that otters have strong family ties, something he is hoping to replicate at the school. “Everyone knows how cute otters are, right?” he said.
The Central Valley School District applied for a state K-3 class size reduction grant that could only be used to add K-3 classrooms, said Superintendent Ben Small. The district was awarded $20.9 million, which allowed the district to build Riverbend and Liberty Creek when added to the construction bond approved by voters in 2015.
“This community has been waiting for this school for many, many years,” Small said. “We are so excited to deliver it to you tonight.”
The building has plenty of natural light and security measures. It was also built with three wings to make later additions easy to complete.
“This building is practical, it’s functional, it’s good-looking and will serve the community for years to come,” Small said.
After the dedication ceremony, people spread throughout the building on self-guided tours. The children in the crowd made a beeline toward their future classrooms, where teachers waited to greet families.
The elementary school boundaries for the district had to be redrawn to accommodate Riverbend. The attendance area is south of the Spokane River and north of Interstate 90. The western border is just east of Sullivan Road and the eastern border is the western edge of Orchard Park.
The district has owned the property at the corner of Mission Avenue and Long Road for a number of years, planning for the day when increased growth would make a new school necessary. Small said the school would not have been built this soon if it wasn’t for the class size reduction grant the district received.
“We were able to move this building up because of that grant,” he said.
The portion of Mission Avenue that runs in front of the school is expected to open by the time school begins, Small said.
“Mission will be paved in front of the school, but they will still be working on Mission from Long to Barker (Road),” he said. “We’ll be rerouting our buses and we’ll make sure kids have a safe route to school.”
Mission Avenue is expected to be fully complete and open in October.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter