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Parkview families get first look at new school

By Gina Duwe
August 27, 2015

ORFORDVILLE--With the paint barely dry and construction dust still visible, hundreds of Parkview families rushed into the new middle and high school Wednesday night for their first look at the community's next chapter.

It took years of failed referendums and countless board meetings to get to this moment.

“It's because of every one of you, and the staff, and J.P. Cullen and Somerville Architect that this is possible,” Superintendent Steve Lutzke told the crowd gathered outside what used to be the elementary school.

Students, parents and community members snapped photos and cheered as school board President Clay Hammes cut the ribbon into the building that received a complete remodel and addition.

Natural light poured into the cafeteria at the school's main entry.

“Wow, this is awesome,” one woman said as she walked into the new three-station gym.

“Better than the little gym we had!” another said.

Many who walked onto the hardwood floor had similar comments.

“I think it's beautiful—long time coming for this district,” said Tim Oswald as he looked at the gym with his wife, Jen.

The results were “beyond our expectations,” she said, and they look forward to their three children—two basketball players in 6th and 7th grades—and a 3-year-old attending the school.

It's nearly 16 months since voters narrowly approved a $17 million referendum in April 2014 to allow the construction, which also includes converting the old middle/high school into the new elementary school.

“It's an incredible transformation in such a short amount of time,” Lutzke said. “You can't drive by Orfordville without noticing something's different.”

Lutzke included a disclaimer in his comments: People were entering what was still a construction zone last week, and staff will use every minute before school starts next week to complete finishing touches.

The two buildings consist of 62,000 square feet of new construction and 93,000 square feet of remodeled space. About one-fifth of the $17 million went toward new air conditioning and heating systems in the schools, and the existing portion of the high school has a new roof.

The new construction at the middle/high school includes the gymnasium with seating for 1,100, the cafeteria, band room, choir room, weight room, four science classrooms, tech ed lab, ag lab, family and consumer ed lab, bathrooms and a new main district office.

“Pretty much every square foot has been touched and redone, or will be redone in the next couple weeks,” Lutzke said.

Elementary students will start school in the old high school while renovations finish up on the other half of the building. Completion is set for the end of October.

The project is on budget, and Hammes said he thinks people are impressed by how much was able to be done.

The Parkview district is now centralized in Orfordville between the two schools, no longer having outlying elementary schools. The Footville school closed in June and is on the market. Newark Elementary closed in 2012.

While excited, several students said they would likely get lost in the new school.

“It's a lot different,” junior Camryn Burtness said. “I'm not used to it yet. It doesn't seem like I'm at my school.”

Senior Kristen Akey commented on the new-school smell, though she was a little bummed it didn't include a pool.

Her friend Rachel Miller, a senior, said she's reminded of all her childhood classes while touring the hallways she walked as an elementary student. Each time she looks in the art room, she'll think of eating lunch in what was the former cafeteria.

Debra Meredith's three grandchildren are excited to attend the school, she said as she sat in the cafeteria.

“I think it's something that was needed, I just hope the money was well-spent,” she said.

She liked the sewing room and cooking classroom that featured six commercial kitchens, but she thought some of the classrooms were small.

“I hope it's easy to keep up. The maintenance is what ends up costing the money,” she said.

Lutzke commended volunteers who helped move furniture and classroom materials in June and August between the schools. He joked the task left him and his buildings and grounds director with sleepless nights, wondering how they would pull the move off with just volunteers and staff.

“It went 10 times better than we ever could have (imagined),” he said.