Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bellevue students greeted to a surprise

School district spends $1 million on school site improvements

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue Elementary School students enjoy the expanded playground area on Monday, the first day of the new school year. The Blaine County School District spent about $1 million this summer on a massive site improvement project at the Bellevue school. Photo by Willy Cook

"This is way more different than before," an unidentified kindergarten student said Monday, the first day of the new school year in Blaine County.

The youngster was among some 325 students who were greeted with a surprise when they showed up Monday morning at Bellevue Elementary School. Grass has replaced asphalt, new trees and bushes have been planted throughout the school grounds, the playground has been expanded and unsightly power poles have been removed.

"Fabulous," said Bellevue Principal Angie Martinez. "The outside of the building now reflects the beauty that we've had inside all along. The improvements have also improved safety at the school."

The Blaine County School District spent about $1 million on the school over the summer. Work started in early June and, except for a few odds and ends, was completed by Monday.

"It was a very tight timeline," said Mike Chatterton, the district's business manager. "There were no major complications. Beau Burks did a really good job of getting this done."

Chatterton was referring to Burks Excavation, the Bellevue company contracted for the project.

One of the most noticeable changes, compliments of the city of Bellevue, is that the school grounds have been enlarged by about 10 feet around the perimeter.

"The city of Bellevue deserves a lot of credit for that because they gave us the easement and they were great to work with," said Howard Royal, the district's director of buildings and grounds.

Enlargement allowed the playground area to be expanded, provided room for more parking and gave space for sidewalks, curbs and gutters, which now surround the complex.

Another noticeable change is at the school entrance. Buses and regular vehicles are now separated to cut down on traffic congestion and improve safety for the students. Parents can now drop their children off at the school entrance while bus loading and unloading is at the back.

Bare asphalt near the entrance has been replaced by grass, new bushes and trees.

Martinez pointed out that red and gold roses have been planted.

"That's our school colors," she said.

Numerous changes have also been made on the east, or backside, of the facility. Asphalt and gravel has been replaced by grass. About a half-dozen power poles have been removed and the electrical lines have been buried.

"It's much more welcoming, the back of the school—it used to be just a fence," Martinez said.

Asphalt has also been removed from around four portable classrooms on the east side of the facility. In its place, grass, trees and bushes have been planted, along with a garden spot for various school projects.

"What we tried to do back here was capture all this for play area," said Chatterton. "So we worked to make a place where the kids were safe from all the traffic around here."

Other improvements include new lights. Twenty-five "dark-sky-compliant" fixtures have been installed around the complex. Problems with ice and snow will be alleviated this winter by a new drainage system and heated pavers at school entrances.

In addition to safety improvements, "we're just making the whole site look nice," said Chatterton.

Martinez said staff and students are excited about the changes.

"We thank the city of Bellevue and the school district for the improvements they've provided our city," Martinez said.

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