School halls

Students led their families and volunteers led tours through the hallways of the new middle and high schools during the open house Saturday.

The Buena Vista school district’s new middle and high school building welcomed a steady stream of people through its doors when it opened to the public for the first time Saturday.

Students had class in the two-story building for the first time last Thursday, and by Saturday many were excitedly guiding tours for their families through the brightly lit halls of their new school.

During Monday’s meeting of the Buena Vista school board, district principals shared their testimonials of the first few days of class in the space.

Buena Vista High School principal Kevin Denton presented a slideshow of photos of students using the school as if they’d been there for years.

“It was like they were just waiting for it,” Denton said, clicking through photos of students on the stairways leading up through the building’s central two-story atrium into the media center and library or doing homework over lunch at tables in the open space.

“They knew exactly what to do with it when they got there,” he said.

Filled with daylight from floor-to-ceiling windows, the west-facing library and media center opens up to a panoramic view of the Collegiate Peaks and the rest of the Sawatch Range.

Denton recited Priority number 4 of the district’s official list of priorities. “New facilities will be designed and maintained to prevent students from bodily harm and the culture of all buildings will promote emotional and social well-being of all students.”

“And the building is that. One hundred percent,” Denton said. “So congratulations to all of you who have been working on this much longer than I have. It’s a feat that’s hard to describe and very cool to be a part of.”

“Overall, I thought the move went really well. The whole thing,” Buena Vista Middle School principal John Emilsson said. “And so here we are in our new digs … the kids have joy right now. They’re facing some adversity with having to eat in the hall, things like that, but you know what? They’re smiling, they’re dealing with it, they understand the mess hall’s coming and things are good.”

The school’s flex commons, which will be able to convert between a cafeteria and a performing arts space, is scheduled to be built as part of Phase 2 of the school’s construction, which begins with the demolition of the old buildings this semester.

A temporary building is coming, pending the construction of a concrete foundation to hold it, but until then, the school is using an empty science room as a makeshift cafeteria.

“Some of you have been in the building, but you haven’t been in there when there are students,” Denton said. “There’s something that makes it look even better when the kids are there.

“That’s really the heart of it – what the teacher and the student does,” he said. “I’ve been reminding people of that. Let’s not let the building carry us, let’s keep doing what we do best, but let’s let the building enhance that.”

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