KALISPELL – Folks had the chance to check out the brand new Jeannette Rankin Elementary School in Kalispell which welcomed over 350 students when school started on Wednesday morning.
Community members gathered Tuesday evening in the gym of Kalispell’s newest elementary school — and the first one built in 30 years — to take part in an official ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate its completion.
The school district broke ground on the school in June of 2017 after voters approved a $22 million elementary school bond in 2016.
“For months and months — a lot of hours by a lot of people put in — so tonight it was hard to hold back the tears because it was so exciting to see so many community members here supporting us opening the new school and so I’m very excited to have kids here tomorrow,” principal Merisa Murray said.
The school has been built to house 450 students but could accommodate up to 500 if push comes to shove. It joins a fleet of five other elementary schools in the district where construction improvements also included in the bond are underway.
The layout at the new Rankin school reflects a 21st-century approach with flexible work spaces and security features.
“One of the main concerns for the community and for our families was school safety and being able to secure the building in a moment’s notice. And so we not only here at Rankin — we just happen to be the first project done — but we all are going to have what is called secure vestibules so you come in and have to be buzzed through a set of doors to get into or to enter the rest of the building,” Murray explained.
Ahead of welcoming students on Wednesday school administrators chose a dinosaur themed Raptor as a mascot.
“It’s a raptor dinosaur not a bird. Children love dinosaurs, so we thought that would be really exciting,” Murray said. “So we’re going with the dinosaur theme and they’re big and they like to roar. So we are roaring students and we hand out roar tickets for good behavior so it’s just an exciting theme to roll with.”
The Kalispell School District held its first school board meeting in the school following the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Money from a general fund levy passed by voters will also support the school’s operational costs.