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many of our family have a ended school at Cleora. This school has always been a center, a hub, for this community. It probably means a lot more to me now than it did when I was a youngster, but this means more to me than you will ever know. We owe the whole community a debt of gra tude for ge ng this done. This means this community as we know it can con nue.”

It is true that the Cleora school has been doing a lot with less for a long  me. When Guthrie was hired in 2014 to replace a re ring Tim Carson- -who served the district 21 years-- conversa ons about facility improvement also began in earnest. Guthrie hit the ground running.

“The board wanted a fresh set of eyes to take a look around and see what improvements could be made,” he said. “I took that as one of my challenges and went around and looked at everything. I made a list of things that needed to be done in order to maintain or improve the learning environment for our students. We took a year just to develop ideas and form a planning commi ee. By the  me the bond actually ran, we had over a year’s worth of planning and developing.”

Even a remodel of the current building was given considera on. However, it quickly became abundantly clear that a new school was going to make more fi nancial sense in the long run.

“We did look at a remodel,” Guthrie said. “Whenever you do any remodel of an exis ng building, you have to catch the en re building up to code. With this being such an old building, it was grandfathered in. So we brought in people to look at structure and both ADA and fi re marshal compliance. What we found out was that we would be spending as much money, if not more, trying to remodel the building and s ll have a 75-year-old building that wouldn’t have all of our kids under one roof, wouldn’t have a storm shelter and wouldn’t have a lot of the other features that a new building would have. This

building is big, but it has a lot of wasted space. We would be spending the same amount of money trying to get there and s ll not have what we need. But it was defi nitely looked at and discussed.”

What will become of the old school building once the new facility is in place?

“We haven’t made that determina on,” Guthrie said. “Right now we are focused on ge ng this project completed. Once that happens, we’ll come back and do a feasibility study. We will have to look at things like upkeep and long-term cost. We would love to preserve at least a piece of it.”

The passing of the bond issue and the turnout at the groundbreaking, just like the school’s year pie supper fundraiser, demonstrate the unwavering support this community has for its school. Guthrie promises that this outpouring will be rewarded with careful stewardship of the money earmarked for the school.

“We want to be responsible. That is what we focused on, and one of the reasons we selected this par cular architect,” he said. “We didn’t want any frivolous spending. We wanted to be very conscien ous about spending this money. We didn’t look for a lot of bells and whistles that have no impact on the learning environment.

Even though the new school will emphasize func on and prac cality, its more modern appointments will certainly represent a contrast to the dated WPA-era construc on of the exis ng structure. Beyond contemporary features like improved acous cs, ligh ng and ven la on, more unique features may seem extravagant by comparison. One of these features will be the use of glass walls to separate hallways from commons areas such as the library and gym.

“It will have some features that are modern yet prac cal,” he said. “In the end, it will be a building that everybody can be proud of.”

Cleora faculty members are excited about the prospect of larger classrooms, an actual library, no more modular buildings, rooms for special educa on and counseling, a larger cafeteria and gymnasium, even a storm shelter.

“I think the most important piece may be the storm shelter,” said Guthrie. “Our new building is going to have so much more—things we don’t currently have.”

He added: “Studies have shown that new facili es can have a profound eff ect on achievement. Good ligh ng, acous cs, air quality, air control—those are things that we don’t have right now. Those things are o en overlooked, but they can really increase student achievement. Right now, you can hear students and teachers in the next classroom because the walls are so thin and rooms share a return air vent. A lot of noise bleeds over. For somebody whose a en on is easily distracted, it’s a tough environment to learn in. You shouldn’t be able to hear the teacher instruc ng next door.”

No longer shackled by the challenges of a dated building, Guthrie and his staff are primed to carry on Cleora’s tradi on of educa onal excellence.

“We have the best teachers around and I think they are going to be even more eff ec ve once they get in this new building,” he said. “Just to be able to work in a more comfortable, conducive environment to reach kids. I believe that will help us con nue and hopefully even improve what we do well here. It’s a very exci ng  me. It is going to be nice having everyone back under one roof.”

6 - NE Connection

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