All smiles as ribbons cut, opening bond-funded Eagle Valley middle and elementary schools | VailDaily.com

All smiles as ribbons cut, opening bond-funded Eagle Valley middle and elementary schools

EAGLE — Fifty million dollars never looked this good.

Local school officials, hundreds of community members and scores of students were on hand Wednesday, Sept. 5, for the official opening of Eagle Valley Elementary School and Eagle Valley Middle School, two projects funded by voter-approved bond money.

The ribbon cutting for Eagle Valley High School is 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6.

That which was old becomes new

Former EVMS Principal Katie Jarnot was a fifth-grader when the building opened … not really all that long ago. She returned in 2011 as principal as an upgrade began and spent the last year working through this project.

"Everyone were such rock stars," Jarnot said.

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They had their moments, like the times they were compacting dirt and the building shook. One teacher's projector kept going out of focus.

"What did you do?" Jarnot asked her.

"I have a remote control, and I just adjust the focus and keep going," she replied.

Jarnot turned the middle school over to Eric Mandeville after she took a job as an assistant superintendent.

EVMS is technically a renovation. The school board reduced the package from a $45 million new building to a $24 million renovation, and the Haselden construction crew brought it in under that. They'll use the money saved for two more classrooms, a band room and a weight room.

The only recognizable part of the middle school is a yard of three feet of brick wall that used to comprise every wall throughout the school.

Red Canyon walls

After the ribbon was cut to open Eagle Valley Elementary School, Haselden president Byron Haselden smiled like a proud coach as he wandered around the buildings with construction manager Dave Hanen.

Hanen lives about 500 feet from the school and has daughters in fifth and third grades.

Hanen and Jeff Chamberlain, with RLH Engineering, said they had some "opportunities for innovation" along the way. One of the concrete forms in the elementary school did not perform as it was supposed to, and they were faced with a pockmarked concrete wall, and that would never do.

As they brainstormed all sorts of ideas, one of the crew recalled the walls of Red Canyon near Wilmore Lake west of Edwards and how breathtaking they look.

So, they took a look on Google Earth, and then some of their construction crew and a stonemason took a field trip up there.

They decided that, yes, they could replicate that. And that's what they did.

When you walk in the front door, glance to your right and you'll feel like you're in an art and archeological wonder — because you are.

You'll also see all kinds of local touches throughout the buildings because the architects, TAB and Associates, are local, Chamberlain said.

"In fact, 60 percent of the people working on these projects are local," Hanen said.

In the middle school, there used to be an acid-neutralizing tank in a science room that's now a display pit covered with a thick, clear Plexiglas plate. In that display is a skeleton wearing an EVMS pirate hat and brandishing a sword.

What the students do with it now is entirely up to them.

Faster than most

The elementary and middle schools came together quite a bit faster than most, said Patrick Deaton, project manager. From bond passage to building is usually 14 months. Haselden built these in a year, Deaton said.

The project presented a few challenges, such as the abandoned sawmill site under what's now the parking lot. And then they scaled the front of the building to more closely match the neighborhood.

To do that, they had to sink the gym several feet.

"That was important to the community," Deaton said.

School board president Kate Cocchiarella was around for a previous bond election that went down in flames. She was overjoyed during Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

"Words cannot express our gratitude and thanks to the voters and taxpayers of Eagle County for the buildings and improvements all up and down the district," she said.

The elementary school's design is already award-winning.

It's also 75,000 square feet, built around 292 tons of steel and includes 20,306 square feet of playground area, Cocchiarella said.

"Every last penny is well spent," Superintendent Dr. Carlos Ramirez said.

Eagle Valley Elementary Principal Tiffany Dougherty has been leading the school for six years. The school was always beautiful inside, the actual things that make up the school — the heart and soul. The old building — low and dark and the plumbing "usually" worked — was just a structure.

"I'd like to thank everyone who had a part in making this beautiful structure to match what's in our hearts and inside our community," Dougherty said. "It's a place where our children will continue to create a better and more peaceful world."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.