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Publish Date: 8/25/2005

From left: Sophomores Laura Greer, Kirsten Latham, Rachel Schrichte and Kelsey MacKenzie share a laugh while principal Steve Payne gives a welcoming address Wednesday to the student body in the new gym at Erie High School. “It’s the first day for everyone,” Payne said. “Look around. There are no sixth-graders, and they are down the hill saying, ‘Look, there are no big kids around.’” Times-Call/Erin McCracken

Kickin’ it new school
Students around St. Vrain get back to work

ERIE — First-day concerns like “Where are my classes?” and “Are any of my friends in them?” seemed to weigh on the minds of Erie High School students Wednesday more than the long-anticipated new school building.

That was good news to principal Steve Payne.

“I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning and couldn’t get back to bed,” Payne said as he walked the halls of the 161,000-square-foot high school on 61 acres north of the intersection of Weld County Road 5 and Leon Wurl Parkway.

“This has been years in the planning and to actually walk in the hallways, I feel lucky,” he said. “To see the students here for class, this is the first time (the school) has taken life.”

The new building at 3180 WCR 5, more than twice the size of its former location — now Erie Middle School — welcomed around 425 high school students, Payne said.

“The kids aren’t used to all this space,” he said, joking that he might lose a few pounds this year because of all the walking from classroom to classroom.

The new building has capacity for 750 students, he said.

The school boasts a 2,000-square-foot weight-training facility, glass-enclosed cafeteria, a media technology wing and science labs, to name a few highlights.

“Not bad for a country school, eh?” Payne said.

Outside, the nearby intersection boasts new stop signs and surrounding roads have lower speed limits.

On Tuesday night, the Erie town board approved the new signs and reduced speeds in response to concerns about student safety on the roads, which are heavily traveled by garbage trucks on their way to and from nearby landfills.

Freshman Michael Eldridge, 13, just shrugged when asked about the new school.

“I wish there was more summer,” he said on his way to marching band practice.

Another student, on the hunt for Gatorade, asked where the vending machines were.

Payne said the students’ typical first-day questions kept him and other staff visible in the halls. He said he expected a mellow reception, as students have visited the new building throughout the summer.

“Even though it’s a new building, it’s back to the reality checks” of getting into the right classes and meeting up with friends, Payne said.

Not that the student body didn’t appreciate the new building, its architectural details inspired by the town’s mining history. Coal-colored brick, wooden ceilings, corrugated metal, exposed ducts and red roofs conjure images of mine shafts, while spacious windows fill the halls and classrooms with natural light.

“This school rocks compared to the old one,” said junior Amanda Jordan, 17, as she enjoyed the first minutes of her study hall in an area designated for juniors and seniors to just “hang out.”

Erie High wasn’t the only school in the St. Vrain District seeing students for the first time.

Flagstaff Academy literally smelled like roses on its first day of classes.

About 230 students gave flowers to Kimberly Bloemen, the principal at the new charter school for students in kindergarten through sixth grade at 1841 Lefthand Circle in Longmont.

“Kids everywhere had flowers, and I had no idea what was going on,” Bloemen said. “I had no hands to open car doors (for arriving students).”

According to Bloemen, 234 students showed up for class Wednesday.

The students attended their first assembly to meet teachers and staff and to find out more about their new school.

Bloemen said goals for the year include maintaining a math and science focus in the classrooms, building community and bringing new and innovative programs to Flagstaff.

Megan Maguire, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Longmont, said she was excited about meeting new people.

“It’s cool having class in an office building,” she said.

The school is in an industrial park on Longmont’s south side.

Carbon Valley Academy, a charter school at 4040 Coriolis Way in Frederick, also opened its doors Wednesday.

Principal Chad Auer said the day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.

“Patriotism is one of the characteristic traits infused in this school,” he said.

Auer said he had many sleepless nights until this first day, but “tonight I will sleep well.”

The school reported 278 students enrolled for the first day.

Auer said the school’s goals for the first year are to excel academically and continue building a parent and volunteer network.

“Last Saturday, about 75 parents helped the school get ready for its first day by vacuuming carpets, building closets and the preschool playground,” Auer said. “It was a massive barn-raising.”

Roxann Hyland, a 10-year-old sixth-grader, shared half her chocolate-covered pretzel with a new friend during lunch.

“I like this school because there are no bullies,” she said. “One reason we have a uniform is so that bullies can’t make fun of our clothes.”

On Longmont’s fast-growing east side, the new Trail Ridge Middle School also welcomed its first students.

“We are ready to go,” said Trail Ridge principal Valerie Millert. “We’ve got classrooms set up, the furniture is in, most of our books are in. Teachers have been in all summer setting up classrooms and putting things together. It’s been wonderful.”

Times-Call staff writer Paula Aven Gladych contributed to this report.

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at msidwell@times-call.com.

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