Bellville Elementary Open House

Kindergarten teacher Rachel Schag welcomes a student into her classroom during an open house at the new Bellville Elementary School.

BELLVILLE -- It’s a new year, and a fresh start awaits the students and staff at Clear Fork’s elementary schools. When classes resume next week, students will report to brand new buildings.

Kids and parents got a first look at the district’s new facilities during open houses on Thursday night.

“They’re so excited,” said Rachel Schag, a kindergarten teacher at Bellville. “They walk in and their eyes just light up. We are very, very blessed and thankful for all of this.”

The children aren’t the only ones who are impressed with the new space.

“I can’t wait to teach in this room; it’s beautiful,” said Butler kindergarten teacher Sydney Conley. “I’m very giddy.”

The move hasn’t come without hard work from teachers, who had just two days to unpack before the open house.

“I came yesterday at midnight and worked until 10 a.m.,” said art teacher Jenessa Luzader, who teaches at both elementary schools.

“I’m excited for the tables,” she said. “Those come tomorrow.”

Butler librarian Shelli Slavinski had her work cut out for her as well. While most of the teachers have larger spaces, she had to downsize from the previous library, which was housed in a former gymnasium.

“I had to cut a lot of books because of the size, but we’re making it work.”

Construction began for both elementary schools in the fall of 2017. The new buildings offer numerous functional and aesthetic improvements over the originals, which were both constructed more than a century ago.

“I can’t believe the difference I feel in this building,” said third grade teacher Nancy Fox. “It’s wonderful.”

Neither of the former schools had air conditioning. Some teachers were in rooms with only one electric outlet. Students at Bellville had to walk to a different building for lunch.

“In my 20 years of teaching here, I never thought this would happen,” said Sue Beans, a fourth and fifth grade math and social studies teacher at Bellville. “I’m excited for clean air … and the new technology.”

In the past, elementary teachers had to get creative when integrating technology into their classrooms.

“Our screen was a bedsheet that I hung from the ceiling,” recalls Butler STEM instructor Ed Kossick. “There was a washer and dryer in there … I didn’t even have my own space.”

Like every teacher, Kossick now has a smartboard (an interactive whiteboard) in his classroom. He also has a new set of computers so students can create their individual designs for the 3D printer.

“Before, I would use (the design software) on my computer and we would talk about it and go through it as a class,” he said. “Now they can actually go in and build their own designs. It’s very exciting. Everything is exciting. This is an amazing space.”

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