Upbeat music sounded from a speaker outside the new Artondale Elementary School on Monday. A steady stream of cars pulled up in front of the recently completed, two-story building. Staff opened the passenger doors for kids who emerged like rock stars.
“Welcome to the first day at your new school!” they were greeted.
Sophia Sandquist gives a high five to Ollie the Otter on the first day of classes Monday at the newly constructed Artondale Elementary School building. Artondale is one of four new elementary schools completed since January with funding from Peninsula School District’s 2019 bond. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now
Some of the students exchanged a wave or high five with Ollie the Otter, Artondale’s mascot. Many were bent on just getting inside to see their new digs.
“The kids are thrilled,” said Deanna Minich, who was dropping off her two grandchildren. “We’re just so grateful for the bond measure that allowed it to occur. And we’re grateful for the support of the community.”
Students in Ms. Lily Page’s class work on an assignment at the newly constructed Artondale Elementary School building on Monday, the first day of classes in the new building. The old Artondale Elementary will be demolished and a playfield built in its place. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now
Voters in 2019 approved a $198.55 million bond with the pledge by Peninsula School District to replace two aging elementary schools, Artondale and Evergreen, and build two new schools to accommodate growth in the elementary population.
Cost-saving measures — including the district’s purchase of the old Boys & Girls Club on Skansie Avenue — plus additional state funds allowed the district to accelerate its construction schedule and to complete all four elementary construction projects with additional funds left over to renovate two middle schools.
Aliyah Myhre helps her teacher Rashelle Pratz with the daily calendar on Monday, the first day of classes at the newly constructed Artondale Elementary School building. Teachers moved classroom materials over the past two weekends to be ready for the students’ move from the old Artondale Elementary. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now
Peninsula’s expansion of the Boys & Girls Club building created Pioneer Elementary, the district’s first new elementary school in 34 years. The school opened January 2019, although in the original bond plan the then-unnamed school wasn’t slated for completion until the end of 2022.
A second new school, Swift Water Elementary on Harbor Hill Drive, wrapped up over the summer and the school was ready for students as scheduled when school opened in September.
Also ready at the start of the school year was the Evergreen Elementary School replacement. The new building opened a full year earlier than planned. The old Evergreen will be demolished and an existing gym will remain for school and community use.
Siblings Madison (left) and Mason Lukenbach walk into the new Artondale Elementary School on Monday, the first day the building was open for classes. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now
The new Artondale, promised in the bond proposal for “fall of 2021,” opened on schedule, replacing an aging building, the original part of which dates to 1952.
Students began the school year in the old building. Teachers moved classroom materials to the new school over the past two weekends, and the building was good to go (complete with kids’ artwork on the walls) for Monday.
Principal Jessica Rosendahl pointed out the high ceilings, natural light and “flex spaces” for learning in small groups outside of classrooms, the spacious library and the commons area, which doubles as a cafeteria.
Architectural accents that look like seaweed and green water will make the Artondale Otters feel right at home.
Sawyer Jensen and Haley Kallenberger work on an assignment in Ms. Lily Page’s class at the newly constructed Artondale Elementary School building on Monday, the first day of classes in the new building. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now
“It’s so exciting,” Rosendahl said. “It almost feels like the first day of school again back in September. And our community has been waiting for this moment and we’re just so excited to be able to share it with everybody.”
The 77,155-square-foot building, with 34 classrooms, is coming in with an anticipated cost of $40.35 million, according to the most recent information available from the district. Some work around the grounds has yet to be done.
After the old building is demolished, a new playfield will go in its place and be ready by fall 2022.
Ollie the Otter gets a hug from student Audrey Jones on the first day of classes at the newly constructed Artondale Elementary School building on Monday. Christina T Henry / Gig Harbor Now
Cost savings on Peninsula elementary school projects will allow the district to renovate Kopachuck Middle School and Key Peninsula Middle School, which were identified as the next priority during bond planning. Contracts have been awarded with Key Peninsula projected to cost $35.1 million and Kopachuck $33 million. Both projects are set for completion sometime in 2023.
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