COLORADO SPRINGS — Tuesday marked the first day of school for Harrison School District students, and some of them returned to brand new buildings with a lot of features.
The mechanical, technology, and safety upgrades were paid for by a $180 million bond approved taxpayers in November 2018. Projects began in 2019, and must be finished by 2024 to cover all of the campuses for the six-year bond.
Carmel Community School wrapped up bond renovations this summer at just over $36,480,000, Monterey Elementary $5 million, and Wildflower Elementary $7 million.
Students from all of the schools had to move out of their buildings to accommodate the renovations. Some of the Caramel Community School students haven't been in their school in over a year.
"There is a lot more space here. In Panorama, we only had a single wing, and here we have the whole school and that long hallway," said Leo Marin-Sanchez, Eighth Grade, Carmel Community School.
He is excited to start the year in his newly built K-8 community school.
"There is actually grass now. When there are fire drills, we don't have to stay in the mud because it was painful last year," said Marin-Sanchez.
His school was completely destroyed three years ago for major renovations.
"There were a lot of structural issues — places that were sinking and rising," said Kellie Moore, Principal of Carmel Community School.
Which created safety issues for the students at the school, including doors that wouldn't shut or lock properly, but that is no longer the case.
"We have quite a few safety measures. We always start with situational awareness so making sure we are very aware of our surroundings, and what is happening. We have a school security guard who is checking the perimeters of the buildings, and all of the classrooms are locked and propped and they are held with the magnet," said Moore.
After moving out of their school in January, students at Monterey Elementary School are also glad to be back in their building.
"It is so new — you just come in and feel more welcomed. There is so much more stuff for them to do here, playground they can play with, and it is so much bigger," said Brenda Escalante, Monterey Elementary School parent.
"We have our clever touch boards, those really help with learning, and allow students and teachers to access technology," said Erika Tunson, Principal of Monterey Elementary School.
Over at Wildflower Elementary School, kids are celebrating the first day back in their building.
"We have new furniture, new flooring, and paint. It is absolutely beautiful," said Dr. Cassie Gannett, Principal of Wildflower Elementary School.
They also had to move out of their building in January for renovations.
"Some of our boards were older and faded so you had to squint to see the picture," said Gannett.
Now, they have boards like Monterey Elementary School, and they are grateful for the community that helped make it happen.
"It brings value to everything we're doing," said Gannett.