Evergreen Elementary will observe its 40th anniversary in 2019, making it one of the oldest buildings in the district.
Despite all the wear and tear that comes with four decades of use, Evergreen continues to excel academically. The school was recently singled out as one of the best in the nation, but even its most diehard supporters admit the building is in desperate need of some TLC.
In 2018, the Bethel community voted twice on school bonds that would have built three brand new schools and renovated and expand Evergreen and three other schools.
Evergreen would have been completely remodeled with an additional 15,000 square feet of space, which would have increased capacity to 625. The school was built to hold 391 students, but it currently enrolls 532 students.
Voters rejected both of those bonds, making them the 16th and 17th such bond failures in the last 21 attempts since 1980. The same problems still exist, so the school board is putting a similar bond back on the ballot in February.
Cathie Carlson, Bethel’s Director of Construction and Planning, said the Evergreen project would be much more than a simple facelift.
“It will be a major renovation,” she said. “They’ll keep the outside shell but give it a major upgrade. We’ll punch new windows in and give it a whole new façade. It will feel like a brand-new building.”
Carlson said the school would get all new flooring and more advanced technology, including sound reinforcement in classrooms, learning walls, and wireless access throughout the building.
Evergreen Principal Jamie Burnett said teachers and staff members regularly have to put in work orders to fix various old and outdated areas in the school.
“It’s almost like putting together a used car — just slapping on parts,” Burnett said. “You can only fix things so many times before they reach their lifespan.”
The building certainly has some structural problems, but Evergreen is still one of the highest performing schools in the district. Just this year Evergreen was named both a National Title I Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon School. Those honors are given to a small number of schools across the country that excel academically despite having a large percentage of low-income students.
“We have a great community and our kids really take pride in the building as it is, but to elevate it a little more would just increase that appreciation,” Burnett said.
Election Day is February 12. More information about the bond is available here.