A brand new feel to the old main building at Glenwood Springs Elementary School | PostIndependent.com

A brand new feel to the old main building at Glenwood Springs Elementary School

It's not completely out with the old, in with the new at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, as students and teachers arrived Monday to start the new calendar year after the holiday break.

There's still enough of the 1921 old main building to remember and cherish, like the wood banisters and railings on the stairways and the funky column supports in the renovated gymnasium.

But there's also a lot of new, modern features to make the overhauled space a comfortable, state-of-the-art facility in which to teach and learn.

"It's pretty overwhelming," said fifth-grade teacher Scott Anderson, who went to elementary school himself in the historic old GSES building in the early 1990s, and whose daughter now attends there.

"What a huge addition to the community, and what an amazing asset to the education of our kids," Anderson said, as he prepared to welcome his students to an actual permanent classroom after two years of teaching in modular units while construction was ongoing.

"I'm excited to see their faces this morning when they come in," he said. "This kind of space helps with our 'crew' approach, just to have a learning environment where we can build that positive climate and culture within our school and have a place that we're proud to call our own."

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Fellow fifth-grade teacher Sara Oleksy agreed, and said she likes the way the design blended some of the old features with a more open classroom and work space environment that's equipped with modern technology.

"As teachers, we adapted to having to be in the modulars, and so did the kids," she said. "But coming into this new space for the first time, it just feels so amazing. The kids are able to have their needs met in a lot of different ways."

The anticipation has been a long time coming for fifth-grade students Giselle Vega and Melanie Alvarez. Most of the students moved into the brand new GSES addition at the beginning of the school year, but the fifth- and second-grade classes have been in modular units and other temporary quarters during the fall semester.

"Everyone wanted to be in the new building, but we had to wait," Vega said. "But now, it's even better because we get to be in this building. It's very improved from what it used to be."

Alvarez agreed, adding she likes having new, cleaner bathrooms without a bunch of writing on the doors.

"And, the hallways are less cramped than they were before," she said.

Added Alex Shea, also in the fifth grade, "I think it's really awesome. It took awhile to build, but I definitely think it's going to be worth it."

Sarah Jonker, a fifth-grade Spanish teacher, was busy welcoming students Monday morning as they arrived for the first time on the second floor of the old main building.

"Just seeing the kids' faces coming up the stairs made it all worth it," she said. "Kids are more motivated to learn when they're not literally sitting on top of each other."

GSES Principal Audrey Hazleton said architects from Treanor HL had their work cut out to take the design input from an advisory group made up of school district staff, teachers and community members to not only create a new building addition but turn the old building into an innovative new space.

Early on, the consensus was to maintain the historic structure as part of the redesigned school and surrounding campus, she said.

"It was definitely a design challenge, because you have this opportunity for something new, but you also want to honor the old," Hazleton said. "I think they did a really nice job of doing both."

Being able to settle in after two years of having to work around constant construction is also a relief, she said.

In addition to the second-grade classrooms on the lower level and fifth grade on the second level, the renovated old main building also houses the new language, music and arts classrooms, plus small group study rooms and teacher work areas. While the gymnasium is complete, construction continues on the new cafeteria area, which is scheduled to open after spring break in early April.

The new playground areas outside are also a hit with students, Hazleton said.