Construction wraps up on District 91 elementary schools

The old Longfellow Elementary School is being demolished this week as the new building nears completion. Students will start the school year this fall in their new building. Longfellow is one of four elementary schools that have been replaced in Idaho Falls School District 91.

Hundreds of Idaho Falls School District 91 elementary students will start school this fall in brand new digs.

Construction on the new Longfellow and Edgemont elementary schools — two of several projects funded by a $53 million school bond patrons approved in 2012 — is slated for completion by Sept. 2, the first day of school for District 91 elementary students.

Work on both schools began in April 2013. Demolition of the old Longfellow building started this week, District 91 spokeswoman Margaret Wimborne said. Demolition of the old Edgemont building is scheduled to start on or about Tuesday.

The schools are the final two of four older district elementary schools to be replaced. The new Ethel Boyes and Dora Erickson elementary schools opened last year.

“We’re very pleased all these bond projects have come in on budget and on schedule,” Wimborne said. “And we’re excited to get these last two elementary schools open.”

The new schools feature the same design plan, Wimborne said. Each is about 71,000 square feet and include state-of-the-art learning infrastructure, including media centers and computer labs, as well as Wi-Fi networks, an increased number of electrical outlets and electrical systems that can better support technology, Wimborne said.

“With those older schools, it wasn’t uncommon for classrooms to have just two outlets (in a classroom),” she said. “It was difficult to accommodate the kind of learning teachers are offering now.”

The new schools also are designed for energy efficiency, Wimborne said, and offer safety features that include single-point entry and an access control system, in which teachers need a key card to enter.

Longfellow Principal Kris Smith said he’s most excited to have more space for things such as enrichment programs. The old Longfellow building was built in 1957, he said, and didn’t have as much space for large performances and activities.

“We’ll have a dedicated art room, a dedicated music room and additional computer labs,” he said. “We’ll have the same number of students and teachers, but a lot more space for those student-learning activities … our students really go on to become leaders in eastern Idaho and I’m happy that now we’ll have a facility that will make it much easier to do that.”

Renovation of Skyline High School’s aging science wing also is underway and scheduled for completion in mid-October, Wimborne said. Once finished, the wing will provide more lab space and better able to accommodate modern science instruction.

“Some of those (existing) labs are very small,” Wimborne said. “It’s been difficult to provide adequate chemical storage and some other things. This will be a great improvement and provide more science labs and really benefit all students on the west side of town.”

In addition, crews are finishing improvements to Theresa Bunker Elementary School this summer. Those improvements include reconfiguring the parking lot and student-parent pick-up and drop-off areas, Wimborne said. Those changes are designed to improve safety and help traffic flow smoother.

The final bond project — upgrades to Emerson High School — will take place next summer. Wimborne said design work will begin this fall.

Reporter Kirsten Johnson can be reached at 542-6757.