Students, teachers and administrators at Olpe Elementary and Olpe Junior/Senior High School had a chance to show off Thursday.
It has been more than two years since voters in the Southern Lyon County school district approved a $14 million bond for renovations and upgrades to all three of the district’s buildings — which also include Hartford Junior/Senior High School and Neosho Rapids Elementary. Ground was broken on the project nearly a year later in Feb. 2018.
Thursday, the fruits of that labor were on display in Olpe with a ribbon cutting at the renovated building followed by tours for interested community members.
“This is a special time for all of our communities and our district,” USD 252 Superintendent Michael Argabright said.
Many of the improvements in Olpe were most visible in the elementary. A new library, new STEM lab, new music room, a storm corridor and extra space in classrooms were only a few of the upgrades that have already taken place. Some work is yet to be completed on the outside of the building, which will include secure entrances and a new playground area.
A space of about 150 square feet was added to several of the elementary classrooms, something sixth-grade and junior high social studies teacher Derek Temeyer said has been a benefit to his classes. He said the extra room has allowed the older students to spread out and utilize the space when working on projects or group activities.
One kindergarten and two pre-K classrooms are entirely new.
“Our faculty and staff had a lot of input on the new facilities and what you see inside the building,” Argabright said.
Olpe High School senior and Student Council member Neleh Davis said during a tour that her favorite part of the renovations was the new library. The media center is centrally located so it can be easily accessed by students of all ages. It also features a small classroom which is being used for art and college-level classes along with private bathrooms.
“I love going to the new library,” Davis said. “That’s my sweet spot now. It’s just a nice, quiet, comfortable place to go get work done.”
Davis said it was exciting, even for students, to see the hard work of the district coming to fruition. Argabright admitted the whole process has been a lengthy one, with a facilities improvement committee putting in years of work before making recommendations to the USD 252 Board of Education.
He added the companies which contracted with the district to do the work — Alloy Architecture of Wichita and Nabholz Construction from Lenexa, among others — have helped make the arduous process a good experience.
“We had a really good team,” Argabright said. “They listened to our staff and did what they were asked to do. This project has been challenging since day one.”
Phillip Jordan of Alloy Architecture commended the district’s administrators, faculty and students for their diligence in working with his team throughout.
“It’s kinda sad that it’s over, but hopefully everyone likes the results,” he said.
Nabholz Construction’s Ron Ferris said he and his coworkers have also enjoyed their experience working with the district.
“I also want to thank the community for embracing our folks and making us feel like part of the community,” Ferris said. “It’s been a great time.”
Now that the work is nearly complete, Davis said it has been fun seeing the teachers and staff members in Olpe get excited about their new workspaces.
She added that even among the students, the renewed energy is noticeable.
“I’ve been here since sixth grade, and it means a lot that the community cares so much about us,” Davis said. “It means a lot that they voted ‘Yes’ on the renovations.”