Wednesday wasn’t just the first day of school for USD 383 students. It also served as the first time Woodrow Wilson faculty and staff were allowed to enter the school.
Starting at 8 a.m., they had just two days to get ready for their first day of school Friday. Wednesday’s work included the problem of having no air conditioning while navigating around all of the workers still finishing the school.
The Wilson staff couldn’t have any outside help until Thursday afternoon, when the school finally got its temporary certificate of occupancy. Renovation work had been behind schedule, causing the delay in the school start date.
Awaiting faculty members inside the school were piles of boxes and disorganized furniture.
“Everything was dumped in the middle of the room literally,” Brooke Snyder, a fourth grade teacher, said. She spent eight hours the first day unpacking boxes and beginning to configure her room.
By Thursday afternoon, Wilson still looked very much like a school that was opening next week rather than next day.
Workers were still all over doing things such as painting, assembling office chairs and installing soap dispensers. The hallways that would usually have ‘welcome back’ paraphernalia and bulletin board material were bare. Computer monitors still hadn’t arrived.
Snyder’s white board was still stripped, exposing the visually unappealing concrete beneath it.
Snyder said it had been a really crazy couple of days, but teachers stuck together. “Kind of knowing we’re all in the same boat, we’re helping and supporting each other,” she said.
Bonnie Kuehne, second grade teacher, said she had been working since 7:30 a.m. without a lunch break. “I’ve been going completely nonstop since I got here,” she said. “I’m not sure when I’ll leave here.”
Kuehne said it’s less than ideal to be working on this type of room preparation in late-August. “Usually when Aug. 1 hits, you really should totally be thinking about school,” she said.
Kuehne spent Thursday getting the classroom to look appealing for both the students. “The main thing is to make the room neat and bright,” she said.
Kuehne and other teachers prepared to have to stay until 7 p.m. or later. Hannah Thayer, a third grade teacher, also planned to stay later even though she wanted to get back to her eight-week old daughter.
“I have pretty much been enjoying the time I haven’t had to work,” she said. “I had to sacrifice that time with her the past couple of days.”
Due to her condition, she found unpacking easier than packing at the end of last school year. “It was a lot harder last year packing up all the boxes while nine months pregnant,” she said.
Principal Eric Koppes said everyone came in ready to work under the stressful conditions. Teachers initially expected to start moving in Tuesday.
“They’re smiling and joking and having a good time,” he said. “It’s excellent seeing their attitudes.”
After the first day Friday, many teachers expected to still have more work to do fixing the classroom.
“A lot of teachers will still need to unpack and move more furniture around,” Snyder said. “But when our kids are here, they’ll never know how stressed we were.”