Renovated Centennial Elementary readies to welcome students
When students vacated Centennial Elementary School in late May, they left a building that was dark, with a leaky roof and with walls painted a rainbow of pastel hues. When they return on Aug. 8, they will walk into a building aglow with natural light, with a snug climate and with clean, white walls.
Gone are the traditional desks with heavy seating; in are the contemporary, dry erase-compatible workspaces and wiggle-accommodating chairs.
Teachers will no longer sit at stationary desks. Instead, they will have the option of pushing a wheeled, podium-like table throughout their classrooms, making their workstations flexible and their capacities to serve students greater.
These are the classrooms of the 21st century, said Centennial Principal Kimberlee Noyes, and they were on display Thursday, Aug. 1, during a tour of the freshly redone school.
“You really see it here,” a bubbly Noyes said. “It’s not just renovated, it’s modernized, it’s updated, it’s truly transformed.”
The 57,670-square-foot Centennial was built in 1972, according to Harrison School District 2 (D-2) documentation. The school located at 1860 Chelton Road serves about 520 neighborhood children in any given year, and had gone decades without any major overhauls.
That changed this summer, thanks to a $6.5 million overhaul performed by Springs-based Nunn Construction. Centennial’s needs included interior, mechanical and external renovations; full-scale lighting upgrades; technological improvements; restroom and kitchen renovations; a new roof; and one major conversion to turn the traditional library space into a multi-classroom learning and media center.
The campus now has multiple state-of-the-art technology labs, a freshly painted gym complete with new LED lighting and a safer, ADA-accessible playground. In addition to an award-winning educational campus, Noyes hopes the renovated school will serve as a neighborhood hub for the surrounding Fountain-Chelton corridor.
“It just looks like a different building,” said D-2 Co-Superintendent Wendy Birhanzel. “The kids are going to love it.”
She should know. Before stepping into the chief administrator role, Birhanzel was Centennial principal. She seized the opportunity to test the technology behind the new desks, writing a welcoming message to future occupants in dry-erase marker. An earlier example wiped easily and cleanly away, so the friendly note remained.
“It’s not just a construction project, it’s about changing lives.” — Centennial Elementary School Principal Kimberlee Noyes
The school was among the first prioritized under a $180 million bond sale for capital improvements that D-2 voters approved in November. By the time renovations wrap in 2024, all 20 of the district’s academic campuses, as well as its finance, operations and transportation buildings and affiliated charter schools, will receive upgrades and overhauls.
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At Centennial, the renovations are both visible – the freshly painted walls glisten under sun tube lighting that brings natural daylight into the previously tunnel-like hallways – and more subtle. Three specialized water stations are located around the building and allow students and staff alike to fill bottles or take a sip with fresh, filtered water. That may not seem like a huge improvement, but for a school that had to subscribe to a water service in order to ensure safe access, it’s dramatic, school leaders said.
“These kids deserve as much as anyone does,” said Linda Pugh, vice president of the D-2 Board of Education. She wore out a pair of shoes, walking district neighborhoods and advocating on behalf of the bond issue last autumn, and she was on-hand for the sneak-peak of the first of the renovations.
“We just feel so lucky that the community is investing so we are able to get our kids an amazing education,” Noyes added. “We do world-class work inside the building, and now the facility, inside and out, matches that.
“It’s not just a construction project, it’s about changing lives.”
Nunn Construction Superintendent Dan Lonski admitted that the prospect of the work was “a bit daunting” when it began in May. But his team, he said, was committed to doing its part to make sure kids would return to a safe, state-of-the-art building in August.
And although the Nunn team will be off-site by the time students step in, Lonski and his team are eager to hear about their responses and perhaps join the school for a celebration.
“It’s fun to do a project that has an impact,” Lonski said. “We build buildings that matter.”