This wasn’t just the first day of school.
For hundreds of students and staff at the new Linwood Elementary School, it was the first day of something special – and they knew it.
Many arrived an hour before the 8:30 a.m. opening bell, filling the parking lot with cars and the entire campus with expectations on a picture-perfect Thursday morning.
Together they recited the Pledge of Allegiance and heard from dignitaries, including Principal Gina Naccarato-Keele, Superintendent Shelley Redinger and Spokane Public School board vice president Jerrall Haynes, who got the loudest cheers when he told the crowd that the new Linwood is the largest elementary school in Spokane.
It’s 76,559 square feet, to be exact, with 36 classrooms, a library, gym and stage, and multipurpose room.
“And I know that you parents are ready to drop off your children and start them off on their beautiful educational journey,” Haynes said.
The crowd took the hint, edging closer to the front door.
Moments later, Haynes and Naccarato-Keele cut the ceremonial ribbon to cap a journey that began in 2015.
That’s when Spokane voters approved a bond measure that included $22 million to replace a building that dated from 1952.
The old building was demolished over the summer to make way for a playground. In the meantime, students will have plenty of room to roam inside the new building.
Shortly before 8:30 a.m., it swallowed them up. Kids walked in with smiles as bright as the polished floors.
“So cool,” one girl said as she stared at the high ceilings and a lobby that wouldn’t look out of place in a hotel.
The building is more functional than palatial, with wide halls, alcoves for independent study and high-tech classrooms.
“They’re going to love how organized it is and how functional the layout is,” Naccarato-Keele said.
On the lower level, 18 kindergartners in one room were going old school with crayons and paper. Soon they’ll be working with laptops and an interactive smart projection system that’s part of every classroom.
Few appreciated that more than Richelle Gartner, who’s teaching a combination fourth- and fifth-grade class. Along with laptops, the projection system will allow students to work independently.
The room even has a lighting system that allows Gartner to darken one part of the room.
“The technology makes teaching more seamless,” said Gartner, who got another perk: “a corner office,” as she calls it, with two big windows.
Down the hall, the library is a combination of steel and wood beams. Rows of laptops sit a few feet away from books on wooden shelves. An alcove holds soft-cushioned chairs and overlooks a courtyard.
That part was a must, staff and community told planners long before construction began. The school sits in a busy triangle of land bounded by Wall and Monroe streets north of Francis Ave., and a buffer was needed.
“We took a lot of input from staff and community partners on what’s important to them,” associate superintendent Mark Anderson said.
The project was designed by Integrus Architecture. T.W. Clark Construction was the general contractor.
It’s a building to last “another 50 years,” Anderson said.