River Ridge cuts the ribbon on additions

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Middle school students participating in the official ribbon cutting at River Ridge Monday were (not in the order pictured) Alex Eastlick, Ella George, Emily Tesar, Jayden Cathman, Arianna Edge, Audrey Pierce, Siera Childs, Brody Kielley, Hannah Stagman, Bryr Clark, Jesse Fishler and Alison West. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Dr. Jeff Athey, district superintendent at River Ridge Schools, addressed a happy crowd at the official ribbon cutting of the new middle school wing at the pre K-12 school district facility in Patch Grove.

By Correne Martin and Audrey Posten

The entire student body of the River Ridge School District is finally attending classes inside one large facility.

Construction on the district’s $8.86 million facilities remodel and addition project was complete just before Thanksgiving and the fifth and sixth grade students officially moved from their former home in Bloomington to the Patch Grove premises.

Principal Clay Koenig wrapped up the sentiments of those in attendance at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new middle school wing Nov. 27.

“I’m very excited. This is a new beginning for this district, and you guys get to be a part of it,” he said to the middle schoolers. “Someday you’ll get to tell your grandkids, ‘I was in the first student body in this school.’”
District Administrator Jeff Athey added, “I’ve had this day circled on the calendar for a long time. It’s a special day. This was a remarkable journey and end result.”

This culminates a long process involving years of debate and numbers crunching in the district. It was approved by the greater electorate in a November 2016 referendum to upgrade the Patch Grove site and provide instruction at one pre K-12 campus. The future of the Bloomington site will be determined as time goes on.

Greg Callin, of Kraemer Brothers Construction, the lead contractor, wanted the students at the ribbon cutting to understand the teamwork that went into this construction project.

“How a building like this gets done is teamwork. There were literally hundreds of people involved,” Callin explained. “This is a story about perseverance. It was over four years ago when we first started coming to the district. There were some doubters in the process. It shows you need to keep working hard and persevering. We built this for you and all the future students. Use this building as a means to build your dreams and build your lives.”

Kevin Eipperle, of FEH Design, which engineered and designed the new spaces, added, “About a year ago, this building was just an idea.” FEH spoke with parents, teachers and even some students to figure out what the building could be like. “We hope you’re as proud of it as we are. It was a fun process, with a lot of problem solving,” Eipperle said.

Athey said one of the best things he did during his first year as superintendent was to hold listening sessions that engaged community members in contributing ideas for a long-term plan. The district is now working with FEH design to complete an outdoor study to see what else can be done.

He also invited everyone to an open house on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 1 to 3 p.m.

In the end, Monday morning was all about the students.

“I’ll never forget the excitement and joy on your faces (when they saw the new addition),” Koenig said. “Don’t lose that enthusiasm.”

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