Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New school ready to open its doors

Woodside Elementary offers modern amenities

Express Staff Writer

Woodside Elementary technology teacher Mary Ann Ward unpacks microscopes for the school?s new technology classroom. Ward hopes to spark an interest in alternative energy by using the latest technology and equipment in her new classroom. Photo by Willy Cook

Over the last year, Gary St. George watched construction progress on the Woodside Elementary School. Some days he drove to the school parking lot to watch masons diligently lay brick after brick. In time, the crew completed a 68,000-square-foot brick elementary school.

"It systematically went up beautifully. There is not a flaw in the place," said St. George, who maintained a watchful eye on construction. St. George is the principal of the new Woodside Elementary School, located off Berrycreek Drive in the Woodside area of Hailey.

The Blaine County School District will officially open the school Monday, Aug. 28, for classes. Kindergarten through fifth-grade students who live south of Fox Acres Road to the Woodside industrial area will attend the new school. The facility will also house the district's developmental preschool and special needs students.

"We can serve every kid's needs," St. George said. The new principal helped design the building, requesting large classrooms and smaller areas for specialized instruction. His contagious enthusiasm for the project was evident during a recent tour of the facility.

Boise-based Kreizenbeck Constructors, the company managing the project, began construction in March 2005. The new project cost the Blaine County School District nearly $10 million.

The floor plan features three classroom wings that converge at the nucleus of the school. St. George calls the central space "the everybody rooms." The cluster of shared learning areas includes a technology lab, computer lab, gymnasium, soundproof music room, cafeteria and a very impressive library.

"This library is a 'Wow,'" St. George said.

The room features high ceilings and five oversized windows that allow natural light to pour into the space. The vacant shelves will soon house more than 7,000 new books.

He said, "I want the school to be the community center for Woodside. It's a gift to the community."

In total, the school houses 22 classrooms, with separate additional small group instructional areas. St. George expects to open the school with 350 students. The facility can accommodate up to 500 students.

All the classrooms are spacious and maximize natural light. Classrooms feature built-in cabinetry, white boards, water fountains, and computer plugs-ins for the latest technology. The color scheme—off-white, yellow, teal, burgundy and blue—weaves throughout the interior design scheme.

The building's design also made special considerations for special-needs students. A special-needs resource room serves as a therapy center with adjoining separate spaces for a speech therapist and an occupational therapist.

The school's location enhances the already impressive building. The school sits on a 20-acre site adjacent to sage-covered hills.

"It's so private back here ... it's like our own park," said St. George.

The site includes a soccer field and baseball field with additional open, grassy areas. The district planted the fields last year to allow the grasses to mature. Play equipment has been installed, with a separate, fenced-in playground area for kindergarten students.

St. George anxiously awaits the school year. He will look to all of the students and staff to help shape the character of the new school. Details like the school's mascot, colors and motto will be decided after school begins.

"I have a beautiful building, but not a school yet," the principal said.

Woodside Elementary Housing

The Woodside Elementary project includes a community-housing component that has been temporarily postponed.

"The project is on hold to get the school open and to see if the housing is feasible. ... We have to get the prices down to affordable prices," Blaine County School District Treasurer Mike Chatterton said.

The district plans to build three duplex buildings to create six affordable housing units on lots adjacent to the school property. The units are intended to help the community retain Blaine County School District teachers and other staff. The lots are located on the northeastern portion of the site, behind the school.

The lots were planted with wild grasses until the district determines an economic means to build affordable housing for its staff.

The district donated its fourth lot to the city of Hailey during the school's approval process. The city accepted the contribution of a housing lot by the school district in lieu of an additional $40,000 in fees for residential units planned for the property.

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