Bring on your young, your energetic, your huddled masses yearning to be taught.
After more than a year of construction, the newest school building in the Bedford Public Schools is ready.
The Monroe Road Elementary school in Lambertville will accommodate about 650 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“It's a beautiful building - absolutely beautiful,” Principal Ken Graf said.
The air-conditioned facility features classrooms connected for team teaching, hallways with skylights, and a large computer lab with stadium seating.
“I like the architecture. It's got a warm feeling to it,” said Superintendent Jim Goebel.
The district is holding a grand opening celebration for the school at 7 p.m. Thursday. The event will include a ribbon-cutting and flag-raising ceremony, music, refreshments, and tours.
“There should be a huge turnout. There's a lot of eager anticipation to get inside the building,” Mr. Graf said.
The 77,000-square-foot facility cost about $9 million. Workers began construction in March, 2000.
Funding for the school came from a 15-year, $19,975,000 bond issue approved by voters in September, 1998. The remainder of the money is being used to construct an addition to the high school.
The district began designing the elementary school shortly after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, so safety was a major concern, Mr. Graf said.
The classrooms have coat rooms for students to store jackets and school supplies, so they will not be able to hide weapons in lockers. All students and visitors must pass the main office when entering the school, so administrators will be able to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
After ensuring that students would be safe, designers considered how to enhance the classroom environment. All classrooms are connected to another classroom by a removable wall to allow for team teaching.
The entire school design makes use of natural lighting. There are skylights in the hallways and the art room, which includes a pottery kiln, is filled by natural light, Mr. Graf said.
“Research shows that the more natural lighting, the better-natured the children are,” he said.
The gymnasium has seating for 350 people, wooden floors, and a stage that can be stored in the wall when not in use.
“It's very easy to pull out and set up,” Mr. Graf said.
The school is shaped like an “X,” with classes divided into different wings of the building by grade level.
Vicki Kreuchauf, who will teach second grade at Monroe Road Elementary, said the school's shape will cut down on crowding.
“It distributes the children right away. There won't be as many people walking around,” she said.
School starts Aug. 27, and Monroe Road Elementary will be fully operational.
The high school addition, which includes a new gym, cafeteria and art room, should also be complete in time for school, said Mr. Goebel.