Students and staff have been in the new Coldstream Elementary School for seven months, but the excitement hasn’t worn off.
An enthusiastic ceremony was held Monday to officially open the $13.6 million facility on Kalamalka Road.
“It’s cool to think we’re the first Grade 7 students in the classes and desks,” said student Ayla Winston.
Wall colours reflect a fall day in adjacent Coldstream Park, while there are computer stations in each class and curved benches in the foyer have become popular gathering places.
“There’s actual light coming through the windows,” said Emma Wilton, a Grade 6 student.
“In the old school, the windows in my class were boarded over.”
Attending Monday’s official opening was George Abbott, B.C.’s education minister.
“I am much impressed. Why I didn’t have a school like this when I was growing up, I don’t know,” he said.
“I love the light, I love the layout. Not every student in the province gets to have a wonderful gym or music room.”
As much as the ceremony celebrated the new facility, there was also considerable reflection about what was lost. The old school — parts of which dated back to 1909 — has been demolished.
“Yes the school was tired and worn out but it was like a comfortable shoe you like wearing,” said Janet Townsend, a former student who has taught at Coldstream Elementary since 1979.
“I cried and cried when the old one got torn down.”
But while the surroundings have changed, the strong bond between students and staff remains.
“There’s the same people and the same feeling,” said Alicia Hill-Turner, a Grade 7 student.
It was pointed out that the 383 students currently occupying classrooms can claim to have attended both the old and new schools.
“This can never happen again and it makes you all kind of special,” said Bill Turanski, Vernon School District chairperson.
For the first time since 2009, construction fence is now gone. That means playgrounds and fields previously ripped up have been restored and are being used by students.
“Two years later, we are here as a team. We did it,” said principal Tracy Godfrey.