TWIN FALLS — Laura Wilson and her 5-year-old daughter, Ivy, watched the construction of Rock Creek Elementary School for a year.
On Monday, they finally had a chance to see inside the new Twin Falls campus, where Ivy will start kindergarten Aug. 18. She’ll be in the first group of students at the school.
“So far, I think it’s awesome,” Wilson said as the family checked out a pod of kindergarten classrooms.
The Twin Falls School District held grand opening ceremonies Monday and Tuesday for Rock Creek and Pillar Falls elementary schools. The events included speeches, a ribbon cutting and tours.
Rock Creek and Pillar Falls are the city’s first new elementary schools in more than 20 years. They’ll help alleviate school overcrowding as Twin Falls continues to expand and attract new businesses.
The new schools are paid for by a nearly $74 million bond voters approved in 2014. A new middle school, South Hills Middle School, opens in 2017.
Hundreds of people — including students, parents, educators, business leaders, elected officials and community members — filtered through each school during the two-hour open houses. Entire families attended including infants and grandparents.
“It is with great pride — and some relief — that I speak to you this afternoon,” Superintendent Wiley Dobbs told the crowd.
It’s no small task to build two new elementary schools, he added, and to create new school attendance zones.
It’s a relief to open the new schools after many sleepless nights and 14-hour workdays, he said.
School officials thanked construction managers and community members who served on rezoning and school name/color committees.
At both ceremonies, a crowd congregated on a staircase gathering area. Dozens of others stood in a nearby hallway, with a crowd backed up all the way to the front doors.
Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar told students at both schools they’re part of history. He led a cheer at each event, for the Rock Creek raptors and Pillar Falls falcons.
Here’s a glimpse inside the opening ceremonies:
Rock Creek Elementary
Before Monday’s open house at Rock Creek Elementary, cars poured into the parking lot at the new school on Federation Road.
The northwest Twin Falls campus is surrounded by agricultural fields and new homes. St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center is visible off in the distance.
Director of operations Brady Dickinson told a crowd he watched the school’s progression from a mud hole to “the gorgeous building it is today.” He’s in charge of overseeing school construction and facilities.
The two new elementary schools are sisters, but not identical twins, he said.
Dobbs introduced the crowd to his parents, who were in the audience. His mother was part of history as the first group of students in 1953 to attend school in the new Twin Falls High School building.
Like his mother, everyone at Monday’s open house was witnessing history, he said. “I’m most proud that tens of thousands of students will grace the hallways of Rock Creek Elementary School over the next century.”
School board chairman Bernie Jansen called the school’s opening a “momentous occasion.”
Barigar told the attendees the opening of Rock Creek Elementary is a “great, historic event.” He asked how many children in the crowd would attend the school. About two dozen hands went up.
After a ribbon cutting ceremony outside, school principal Shari Cowger greeted parents and children. She asked two girls: “Are you excited for Rock Creek?” They nodded nervously.
Maci Hunt and her two sons walked around the building. Bladen, 6, is going into first grade.
He attended St. Edward’s Catholic School last year, but Hunt gave him the option of where to go to first grade.
“He wanted to come to the new school,” she said.
The family lives near the hospital and saw construction progress throughout this year at Rock Creek Elementary.
On Monday, Hunt said it was exciting to be in the new school. “Everything is just so organized.”
Pillar Falls Elementary
An open house Tuesday at Pillar Falls Elementary, cars lined Stadium Boulevard. Inside the northeast Twin Falls school, group pictures of teachers for each grade level hung on a wall.
The ceremony had a similar feel to Monday’s event at Rock Creek Elementary — and some similar speeches.
But Dobbs told the crowd a new story about two new Twin Falls students who moved this summer from Lexington, Ky.
One of them, Lucy Coles, will be a fifth-grader at Pillar Falls Elementary. Her brother, Jack Coles, will be a junior at Twin Falls High School.
Dobbs took the family on a tour of both schools. Lucy was so excited about her new elementary school, he said, she was trembling. “She was walking on air, it appeared.”
Pillar Falls Elementary also has enthusiastic teachers, Dobbs said. A few teachers camped out late last week waiting to get into their classrooms when the building opened. Dobbs also introduced the crowd to principal Nancy Murphy.
Stephanie Martin has four children who will attend Pillar Falls Elementary: a fifth-grader and triplets who will be in fourth grade. They used to go to Canyonside Christian School in Jerome and will experience a public school for the first time.
“Everyone seems so friendly and nice,” Martin said about Pillar Falls.
In the third grade pod of classrooms, Imad Eujayl and his family looked around. His son, 8-year-old Hafiz, will go to Pillar Falls Elementary this school year. He used to go to Morningside Elementary, but is now in a new school zone.
“I think it’s very modern,” Eujayl said about the school, adding desks that connect together are uniquely designed. He also likes how there’s a different color to differentiate the pod of classrooms for each grade level.