Riverbend Elementary in the Greenacres Neighborhood opened in September 2018, but there are already construction crews on-site working to add more classrooms to the school.
The addition of six classrooms, two bathrooms and a mechanical room, also called Phase 2, was planned, said Central Valley School District Deputy Superintendent Jay Rowell.
Riverbend was built with money from a construction bond approved by voters in 2015, but it wasn’t planned that way. It was slated to be built several years down the road. The district got more state matching money than planned and that along with a class size reduction grant and lower than expected costs on other construction projects allowed the district to move up the construction of Riverbend, Rowell said.
But there wasn’t enough money to build the school as large as the district wanted.
“We knew we eventually wanted 624 students,” he said. “We didn’t want to overextend ourselves in the 2015 bond.”
The new school was built to house 534 students. It filled quicker than expected, thanks in part to housing construction projects in the area.
“We opened it last year and the second year it was up 70 students,” said Principal Jeff Dufresne. “We are currently overflowing some students out because we don’t have space.”
Students in every grade except for second are being bused to schools where there is room for them. In second grade, Riverbend is accepting overflow students from several other schools, including Adams and Sunrise Elementary schools.
Last year, construction began on Ridgeline High School in Liberty Lake and the construction bids came in $6 million lower than budgeted, Rowell said. That freed up money for Phase 2 of Riverbend and construction started in January.
“By going to 624 it should give us a little bit of breathing room,” said district spokeswoman Marla Nunberg.
The district had done everything it could to prepare for Phase 2 during the construction of the main school in 2018, including extending water and sewer lines to where they would be needed in the future.
Dufresne said the students have been accepting of the work. Some classes were moved around to create an empty room at the end of each wing to provide a buffer between the noisy construction work and the students. Dufresne said the general contractor, Jackson Construction, has been very accommodating to the school’s schedule, including avoiding times when construction noise would be disruptive.
“They understand when our drop-off is in the morning, so they don’t schedule deliveries then or big concrete trucks,” he said.
“They also built a little viewing vestibule so the kids could watch,” Rowell said.
John Stinson is Jackson Construction’s project superintendent, but the students have given him another name – Bob the Builder. Stinson plays along, often while he’s retrieving errant balls that have escaped from the playground.
He’s turned one of the empty buffer classrooms into his office, where one wall holds a giant board with the construction schedule mapped out down to the day.
“We’re actually a couple days ahead of schedule,” Stinson said. “With school projects, your schedule is so tight.”
Work on the two classrooms being added onto the middle wing is expected to be complete in August and the other four classrooms on the west wing should be done in September, Rowell said.
“They’re working as hard as they can to try to get us into both of them,” Rowell said.
There are no plans to further expand the school in the future, Rowell said.
“Anything larger than 624 you start crowding your core areas – the library, the gym,” he said.
Dufresne said he’ll be glad when construction is complete and some of his students will no longer have to be bused to other schools.
“This will help that,” he said. “Imagine if we didn’t have Riverbend. There would be portables and busing everywhere.”
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