DILLON — Kristy Hutchinson used to have quite a chore just to start her music class at Parkview Elementary School.
“My storage used to be a closet,” she said Tuesday. “If I wanted to get to the tambourines, I had to take everything out.”
The teachers, staff and students at Parkview and Dillon Middle School are getting used to the added space and modern amenities afforded by the nearly completed $9.5 million renovation project.
All 680 students in grades K-8 use the new music room.
“This is a music teacher’s dream,” she said Tuesday between kindergarten and first grade classes. “I can actually find things.”
Dillon Elementary School district voters approved the bond measure to pay for the renovation two years ago and work started in June 2011. Swank Enterprises, based in Kalispell, won the contract as the general contractor and used workers from Butte on the project.
The district added 26,000 square feet of space and eight classrooms. That includes room to bring the kindergarten students from the Mary Innes over to Parkview.
But the project included much more: A new gym for the elementary is connected to the new music room and is available for events. Numerous shared facilities include the art room, and rooms for teachers and counselors to meet with students, parents or others without disturbing a class.
“I really think taxpayers are getting a pretty good bang for their buck,” said Glen Johnson, superintendent.
The improvements didn’t stop with the new rooms. Every classroom had some type of upgrade, Johnson said. Some were expanded, all had new, energy-efficient lighting installed and the entire school has new windows.
Other upgrades aren’t visible — but just as important, said Randy Shipman, middle school principal. The school’s computer wiring was redone to handle modern computers. And they’ve installed computer labs.
“Things have changed from 1961 to today,” Shipman said. “Now the school is way more efficient and capable of meeting the needs of teaching and learning today.”
The project also included asbestos removal and bolstering many of the walls to make them safe in an earthquake. New boilers throughout the building use far less energy.
The upgraded windows, lighting and heating system will save thousands every year in utility bills — money that can be put toward books and programs.
The school is also easier to run, said Greg Fitzgerald, elementary principal. The district no longer has to bus the kindergarten students over from the old Mary Innes School for lunch and special classes. Middle school students can walk inside to lunch, which gets done quicker. And the lunch area no longer has the double function of being the elementary gym.
Before and after lunch the central area in Parkview is available for other functions.
“It’s used all the time,” Fitzgerald said.
Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at email@example.com.