Students and Parents Excited By New School
By Rick Hiduk
Anxiety and anticipation gave way to relief and excitement on Aug. 22 when thousands of local residents joined Wyalusing Area School District administrators and faculty members at the grand opening celebration for the new Wyalusing Valley Elementary School. The event, which drew retired teachers and some area dignitaries as well, allayed the fears of many in attendance as to whether or not a historic shift from a four-building elementary system to a consolidated school on the same campus as Wyalusing Valley High School (WVHS) was a good idea.
The crowd that gathered in front of the new school was comprised of an equal number of children and adults, who were growing impatient as school officials, project engineers, and Rep. Tina Pickett gave heartfelt speeches geared toward cementing the public’s approval and appreciation of at least four years of planning and 18 months of construction. Elementary school principal Joe Darrow drew a rousing applause from the audience when he cut his presentation to the quick and more or less said, “Let’s get in there so you can see what we’re all talking about.”
WVHS band members lent to the atmosphere by playing a rousing selection of one-hit wonders from the 1980s that are part of the fall football program, as well as the WVHS alma mater, as the ribbon was cut and the doors were flung open. Guests were immediately taken by the roominess of the building, with its high ceilings and seemingly endless hallways.
“It’s going to be a little overwhelming at first for them,” Fred Arey predicted, “but they’ll find their way around pretty quickly.” He and his wife, Carmen, had brought their son Bowman in for his first look at his kindergarten room. The energetic boy literally bounced from one side of the room to the other, impressed by colors and educational icons that he recognized from his participation in Pre-K classes at the former Wyalusing Elementary School (WES) building last year.
“It’s really exciting for all of the kids,” said Carmen.
“I can’t get over how big it is,” Jennifer Booker exclaimed, as she, her husband, Dan, and their children, Kiera and Prestin, explored the building. First-grader Kiera loved her new classroom, and third-grader Prestin was looking forward to playing in the gymnasium, a large dedicated space with folding bleachers along one wall. Both of the youngsters had also formerly attended WES, as did their parents.
Olivia and Simone Lynwood will be moving from the former Camptown Elementary School (CES) to WVES this year. Their mother, Jaysa, related that, as soon as the family walked into the new school’s library, Simone ran to a bookshelf, made a selection, and sat down with it. She declared that her own second-grade homeroom was “pretty.”
“I think that it’s gorgeous,” Jaysa said of the entire building. “I’m glad that all of the kids from the area are going to get to experience it together.”
WVES librarian Bethany Leonard was beaming. After eight years of serving the entire school district as a roving librarian, she had placed about 8,000 of approximately 9,000 titles available to her on the new shelves and had determined that the school had underestimated just how many books she would be able to accommodate.
“I have room to expand,” Leonard related happily. “Everything is in one place now. The outdoor classroom (adjacent to the library) is wonderful. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Fifth-grader Matthew Riess was excited about the computer labs, while fellow fifth-grader Madelynn Mapes and sixth-grader Caitlinn Belcher looked forward to getting creative in the art room, which, Caitlinn noted, contains a kiln.
Traffic through the new Pre-K room was also brisk. Family advocate Shelly O’Conner explained that the program was conducted in the past at WES. While its participants are generally more accustomed to the longer bus rides from the farther reaches of the school district, those who lived closer to any school other than WES would have previously had to switch back to their satellite building as they entered kindergarten.
“Now they can all transition into kindergarten in the same building,” said O’Conner.
The students enjoyed snacks and beverages set up at numerous junctions in the school. Second-grader and former Laceyville Elementary School student Aden Liddick had lunch on his mind as he checked out the cafeteria’s food line and cashier area with his sister, Allie, who will attend kindergarten at the school.
Some children tried out the new playground equipment at the rear of the building, and others checked out the views from the second floor windows on the west side of the building, from which someone exclaimed that they had just seen a red fox running along the fence line near the river.
Retired Camptown teacher and school board member Jane Carey said it best when she expressed her overwhelming commendation of the new school building.
“It’s wonderful,” she stated as she watched the excited youngsters moving from one wing of the structure to another. “They shouldn’t want for anything.”