BLADEN, Neb. (KSNB) - A big change at the new $5.8 million Silver Lake Elementary School is benefiting students who have physical disabilities.
The new Silver Lake Elementary School is now one level, making it easier for students with physical disabilities to get around the building. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)
The school has been under construction since early May. The old building was demolished, and a new one built in its place.
Half of the building is finished, allowing all 150 students to return to their old - now new - stomping grounds. Students and staff moved in on Friday for a half-day of school. Classes officially started on the west side of the new building Tuesday.
"It's newer and the floors don't creak anymore, and there's not as many stairs so you don't have to go on a million different levels to get to your classrooms," said MaKenna Karr, a student at Silver Lake.
Those stairs proved difficult for Joslynn Trausch, a fifth grade student at Silver Lake.
The old Silver Lake building had three levels. Trausch uses a power wheel chair, which made it difficult for her to go up and down from the first floor.
"One of the biggest challenges was being able to keep time management with going up and down the stairs on Stair Climber, a piece of machinery that she would use to get up to the second and third floor," said Erin Trausch, Joslynn's mom and a parapro at Silver Lake.
Trausch said it could take up to 30 minutes to travel from the first floor to the third floor and back down again.
The school did what they could to accommodate students with limited mobility. Duane Arntt, principal of Silver Lake, said they moved them to classrooms on the ground floor so students with physical disabilities didn't have to go upstairs as much. He said that still wasn't the best solution.
Now, it's no longer a problem. Part of the renovation included making the school all one floor. This helps students like Trausch get around more easily.
"We're saving valuable class time now, because we're able to just go from one classroom to the next, safely and easily," Trausch said.
Other improvements include an air conditioned gym, and larger classrooms. Previously, classrooms were about 640 square feet. Now, they're almost 950 square feet.
These renovations are thanks to a $3.8 million special bond issue approved by district patrons and $2 million from a special building fund.
Construction is being done in two phases: Phase one is the west side of the building, and phase two is the east side. Phase one was suppose to be finished on September 12, but the construction company is ahead of schedule.
"This is what's best for the kids. The kids are just enjoying it, and I'm hoping that leads on into academics and behavior," Arntt said.
Phase two is now in progress. Classrooms for fourth through fifth grades will be on the building's east side, along with some offices, speech classrooms and a tornado shelter. Older students are currently in a split room in the future library.
Phase two is expected to be finished in mid-December. Until then, all students will continue classes on the school's west side.