The first day of school had a special meaning for the students at the brand-new North Star Elementary School, which opened its doors Wednesday to its first-ever students.

Students couldn’t help but look around their new school, which wrapped up construction this summer. While walking in single-file lines through the hallways, kids gazed, wide-eyed, through large windows into the school’s courtyard, or up into the commons’ vaulted celling.

Spaces such as Rebecca Larkin’s third grade classroom looked organized and clean, like an Ikea model display.

While her students were at recess, Larkin said she loved the new school’s facilities and its improved technology. But she said her students were particularly thrilled with North Star.

“The students have been very excited,” she said. “A couple of my students told me … ‘We can’t believe that we get to go here, we’re so lucky.’”

More than two years after voters approved Bend-La Pine Schools’ $268.3 million bond measure, $33.2 million of which went to build North Star, 291 students began class at the new elementary in north Bend.

The first day of school was a major event for many North Star parents as well as their kids. A half hour before class began at 8 a.m., two parents brewed coffee in the front courtyard and handed it to their peers as they walked through the school’s doors.

Some parents said they were excited to have their children in a less crowded school. The two main elementary schools that lost students to North Star were High Lakes and Lava Ridge — both of which were overcapacity last year, according to the Oregon Department of Education. Ponderosa Elementary School, another school that saw parts of its attendance area rezoned to North Star, was close to capacity.

“There’s lots of space, no overcrowding,” said Sutton Rardin, who was walking her daughter, Alice, into her first day of second grade. “Ponderosa was wonderful, and we’re going to miss it, but we’re also excited to start something new.”

Ashley and Adam Spangler, whose daughter, Aria, is starting first grade at North Star after attending Lava Ridge last year, also said they looked forward to a less crowded school.

Ashley Spangler added that, because they live very close to their new school, it’s a much easier commute, and the family could watch the construction over the past year.

“We’ve been driving by since it started as dirt, and we’ve been watching it being built the whole time for the last year,” she said.

While walking up to the building before classes began, Aria, 6, said she was curious to see the interior of her new school.

“I think it’s going to look cool inside,” she said.

Because a majority of students at North Star were transferred from other Bend elementary schools, many kids said they were both excited and nervous about making new friends. Lisa Manresa said her son, who just began third grade at North Star after leaving High Lakes, had mixed feelings on the move.

“Of course there’s some nerves: He’s a little bummed to be leaving the friends that he’s had for the past three years at High Lakes,” she said. “But he’s familiar with a few kids here — that helps.”

Alyenna and Jaymee Mata-­Chapman — who were entering fifth and third grades, respectively — also had to leave friends behind when they moved to Bend this summer from San Diego. Their mom, Becky Chapman, said it’s convenient that many of North Lake’s other students will also be looking for new friends.

“Everybody will be new to the school, so it makes things a little easier for them,” she said.

Other kids seemed confident about their first day of school in the new building. Akshai Carriere, 7, said he was going to wear his Hot Wheels sunglasses for the whole day, and he was excited to start class. His mom, ­Cammie Lane, agreed, saying she was “super stoked” about the teaching staff at North Star.

Lane wasn’t the only parent excited about North Star’s teachers. Melissa Siple, who was walking her daughter ­Haleigh into her first day of first grade, said after meeting some of the staff, she felt that they were really energized about their new school.

“Everything’s brand-new and fresh, and you can see it in their eyes,” Siple said.

As a whole, parents and kids seemed open to the North Star experience. As they were approaching the courtyard, Kevin Guiney, dropping off his fourth-grade daughter, Janelle, said having his child at the brand-new school was “an awesome opportunity.” Then, before Janelle started her first day of school, they said in unison, “Go Navigators!”

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

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