Teachers began moving in to Bend’s newest elementary school Monday.

It was the first day teachers at North Star Elementary could start unpacking their furniture, teaching materials and decorations.

Fourth grade teacher Amber Linn said she was so ready to move into the nearly-complete building that she arrived right as the doors opened.

“I was here at 7:30 a.m.,” she said. “I’m super pumped.”

First grade teacher Allison Harris, unpacking boxes with her daughter Abigail — who will attend kindergarten at North Star in the fall — said she was impressed by how pristine the new school looked.

“I feel like I don’t want to move anything because I don’t want to scratch the floors,” she joked. “It’s beautiful — every detail of this building has been thought out.”

Kindergarten teacher Kate Tibbitts said she was a bit nervous to move to a new school after a couple years teaching at nearby Lava Ridge Elementary, but she was still happy to be in her new building.

“Getting settled into a new place is always tricky, but everything is so beautiful,” she said. “I feel so lucky and fortunate to be here.”

Construction at the $33.2 million school, located on Bend’s northern edge at the intersection of O.B. Riley and Cooley roads, is nearly complete a few weeks before students will arrive on Sept. 4. It is Bend-La Pine School’s 16th elementary school and was paid for with a record-setting $268.3 million bond passed by voters in 2017.

On Monday morning, construction workers were adding finishing touches to the building, such as installing vinyl flooring in the gym, moving crates loaded with teaching materials into classrooms and touching up paint around doorways.

The classrooms themselves are full of plastic-wrapped furniture and cardboard boxes, ready for teachers to move in and make the spaces their own.

North Star shares the same structural design as Silver Rail Elementary, built in southeast Bend in 2015. The two-story building has 24 classrooms divided into four wings, a field enveloping the school with two playgrounds, separate rooms for testing or small groups and more.

There is one aspect staff said they were thrilled about: a gym separate from the lunchroom. According to Principal Kevin Gehrig, it’s common for most elementary schools in the Bend-La Pine district to share the same space for P.E. and dining. Tibbitts said she believes separating the two spaces will make the building “a lot calmer” during lunch.

Even the furniture is introducing something new. Gehrig said every classroom — and his own office — have “wiggle chairs,” which allow fidgety students to let some energy out by wobbling in place during class without disrupting learning.

Teachers said they were taken aback by North Star’s striking look, which prominently features exposed wood accents throughout the building and plenty of natural light from large windows in nearly every room.

“The room is beautiful, and the structure of the whole building is amazing,” Linn said. “I actually have a view of the mountain.”

Teachers and administrators said they were ready to mold North Star’s culture. Tibbitts said Gehrig already held multiple team-building sessions for the school’s teachers, and she was intrigued by the idea of an entire teaching staff starting fresh together.

“This is my sixth year teaching, and I always feel like I’ve come into staffs that have been together for years,” she said. “I’ve always loved the idea of starting staff from the ground up and being a part of that initial community.”

Tim Burdsall, an administrator at North Star, said he was curious to see how the school’s environment developed in its first year.

“Each school in Bend-La Pine is special and unique, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the uniqueness of North Star will be,” he said.

But more than anything else, teachers said they were counting the days until they teach a new crew of kids in September.

“I am so incredibly ready for this,” Harris said. “Bring on the kids, bring on the families!”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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