Re-2 building a brighter future |

Re-2 building a brighter future

RIFLE – There is a new-school smell in Rifle. The Garfield School District Re-2 is putting the finishing touches on its newly constructed Highland Elementary School.The district will hold a grand opening celebration from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Highland Elementary, 1500 7th St. Everyone is invited.The new school, with its untracked carpet and fresh, handprint-free walls, will replace Esma Lewis Elementary, which will become part of Rifle Middle School for the next year.Highland has the newest in school technology: wireless computers, motion-sensitive lights, walls that seal themselves after push pins are removed, and clocks set daily by satellite. “This is a state-of-the-art facility, centered around student achievement,” said school superintendent Gary Pack. Everything in the building is meant to make learning easier for students. The lighting is designed so more light is reflected off the page, each teacher controls the room’s thermostat, and each grade’s hall and classrooms are color coded so students can easily find their way, said Pack.”That kind of thing can affect how any of us can learn,” he said of the new technologies.

The new school has 21 standard classrooms. It also offers five special education rooms, an art room, community room, and two teacher workrooms in addition to a library, gym, and other multi-use rooms. The school is 62,000 square feet and came in $200,000 below estimated costs, at $8 million.”It is a very conducive environment to learn,” he said. “There’s a lot of technology and space to create different kinds of education for kids.” The new school “offers lots of flexibility on how we do learning and how we educate kids,” said Pack.

Highland is one of many improvements in the school district made possible by a 2001 bond initiative. Wamsley Elementary is also being renovated this summer.The school will finally have a cafeteria kitchen, so staff won’t have to truck student lunches in from Rifle High School. It will also have a full-size gymnasium for the first time since it was built in the 1980s, said Pack.Wamsley’s old solar heat system will be replaced with a system that is operable, he said. The lights in Wamsley will also be replaced with lights that shine brighter and conserve energy, said Pack.”We’re not just building buildings,” said Pack. The objective is to create an environment to better educate kids.Theresa Hamilton, director of districtwide services, said that last year, one teacher’s classroom was retrofitted with the new lights. The teacher reported improvements in learning and behavior almost immediately, she said.

Garfield School District Re-2 also added a 5,500-square-foot learning opportunity center at the district headquarters at 839 Whiteriver Ave. in Rifle.The center is also high-tech, with wireless computers and smartboards that display computer presentations and respond to touch. The center will be used for training and community meetings, said Pack. “We’re getting requests every day for people to use it,” he said.The center was funded in part with a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs as part of its energy and mineral impact assistance program. The grant is awarded to help community infrastructure keep pace with its growth, said Hamilton. The number of students in the district grows 2.5 to 3 percent each year, said Pack. During the 1990/1991 school year, 2,100 students attended Re-2 schools, and administrators expect 4,000 students this fall, said Pack.”Every facility we have is going through renovations,” Pack said, noting an addition to Kathryn Senor Elementary in Silt, and improvements to Rifle Middle School and Rifle High School. Altogether, the district is doing $45 million worth of construction, said Pack. He said voters approved a $39 million bond issue, but due to favorable interest rates and competitiveness in the construction industry, voters will end up getting $47 million worth of improvements.The widespread improvements are aimed at integration and equity between Re-2 schools, said Pack. “That’s what its all about,” said school board member Howard Stapleton, “making the learning environment more compatible, and that’s what it’s going to do.””We’ve gone from a district of schools to a school district,” said Pack. “Our schools are doing overall the best they’ve ever done.”In addition to Highland’s grand opening on Saturday, the district will hold grand openings at:-The Learning Opportunity Center at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, at 839 Whiteriver Ave., Rifle. -Wamsley Elementary from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 16, at 225 E. 30th St., Rifle.-Kathryn Senor Elementary from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, at 101 Alder St., New Castle.Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext.

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