VIDEO AND STORY: Grand Re-Opening Three Years in the Making

The redesigned and reconstructed Swanson Elementary School opened its doors to the public for the first time on Monday, Aug. 12. The building was constructed over an 18-month period and replaced the old school that was originally built in 1958. The architect of the new school was Alley Poyner Macchietto, and Vrana construction was the company in charge of building it. Redesigning as well as reconstructing Swanson Elementary was part of a 2015 bond that had $79.9 million dollars in funding, which at the time was approved by voters within Westside. The building is 54,000 square feet and cost an estimated $13.4 million to build, according to a press release from Brandi Paul, Westside Director of Communications and Engagement. The new building opened just in time for the school year to start, as was planned. 

According to Paul, the goal of the Swanson reconstruction was to provide a space that would better serve the community. 

“We knew that this is a building that was built in 1958,” Paul said. “That’s a long time ago. We wanted to make sure that if we were going to build this beautiful new building that it was energy efficient, it was safer, but at the same time if we were going to spend all this money, let’s make it so it’s what our teachers, our students and our families wanted. And so that’s why those committees were so important. Our architects actually talked to parents and teachers and said, ‘What do you want? What’s important to you?’ And I really think all of the design elements you see really reflect that and made it happen.” 

One of the most notable changes to the building was removing the “cafegymatorium,” where lunch, gym class and performances were held.

“Now there is a separate lunchroom, a beautiful separate gym, [and] there are separate community spaces,” Paul said. “There’s just space. There’s just space for creativity, for teachers to use [and] for our community if they have different events. That was really important to our community.”

Swanson second grade teacher Pamela Buchholz said she has a similar opinion to Paul: that the new building will bring many benefits to both the Swanson and Westside communities. 

“I know the students are going to be really excited when they come in to see the new school,” Buchholz said. “I just think of all the opportunities that we have here in our building. We have an outdoor education area out there we can use for science and other curriculum ideas.”

The new building was constructed with the theme of nature in mind. The walls of various commons areas and hallways are decorated with woodland animals, and large windows are found throughout the building and most classrooms to provide natural light. 

“Look out my window,” Buchholz said. “When I was sitting here working last week, there were rabbits running up into the trees, a mother turkey with her babies. I mean, it’s going to be so nice. Look in my room. Who wouldn’t want to go to school here? Everything’s new, everything’s bright, everything’s beautiful. This whole space is just gorgeous.”