Saturday, February 2, 2002
Oak Creek Visitors to Soroco Middle School last Tuesday morning may have mistaken it for the first day of school.
The halls shone with fresh paint, children proudly inspected their new lockers and teachers directed students to their classrooms.
Middle school faculty and students returned to familiar surroundings Tuesday after sharing the high school facilities for five months with the senior high school faculty and students.
The interior of the middle school hardly resembles what students and teachers left last May when construction on the $2 million project began.
Natural light now floods halls and rooms that were once only dimly illuminated.
Construction crews worked to uncover the original skylights and extended windows to full length.
Social studies teacher and district athletics director Steve Longwell said his students immediately noticed the new overhead lighting.
The displaced students and teachers understood their wait was worth the inconvenience of moving to a different building, he said.
"We knew the end result would be awesome," Longwell said.
The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders got a taste of high school for several months but their enthusiasm Tuesday showed they weren't too disappointed about leaving behind their older peers.
"I'm glad to be back in our old school," eighth-grader Caitlin Knudsen said. "I'm sure the high school students are glad that we're not hanging around anymore."
For the sixth-graders, it was the first time they headed to class in the middle school building.
Sixth-grader Cindy Trout said she was impressed with the finished product.
"They did a great job," she said. "I like the classrooms."
Like many sixth-graders, Trout said she looked forward to spending her middle school years in a new facility.
A long line of once-displaced Soroco Middle School students began making its way Tuesday morning from the high school gym to the front of the middle school building after the first-hour bell rang.
After a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, they walked through the doors to find something completely different.
Math teacher Andy Johnson taught in the old middle school for 10 years.
He and his students spent the first semester of the year in a high school classroom without windows while they waited for their classroom to be remodeled.
His refurbished classroom comes with several windows, just one of many advantages, he said, to the new middle school facility.
"It was old," he said. "It was nothing in comparison to what we have now."
Eighth-grader Kieran Corrigan appreciated the addition of color to the school.
Crews replaced the dark blue hallways with lighter hues that dramatically brightened the building.
Going to class would be more fun, Corrigan said.
Teachers and volunteers worked the weekend and Monday evening before to get the classrooms in order for the students.
The community's support of the project, in passing a bond issue to fund improvements, made a new building possible, Soroco Middle School Principal James Chamberlin said.
Teachers now have a better teaching environment and children have a better learning environment, he said.
A new, clean facility provided a refreshing change for the faculty and students, Chamberlin added.
"It's something we can all be proud of," he said. "Everyone pitched in to get the job done."