Students tour Bellview for first time since remodel

Students returning to Bellview Elementary School for a tour of the remodeled buildings on Friday faced a host of changes, including a new principal and the prospect of larger class sizes — the results of budget cuts in the spring.

Still, the thing Kai Cheval, 9, was most concerned about was finding his way to Mrs. Hansen's fourth-grade classroom on his first day of the new year, next Wednesday.

"It's good that they give you a map to explore the school," he said as he checked out his new classroom. "I don't want to be late for class."

Ingrid Hansen said she wouldn't ding her students if they got lost in the new hallways and were late during the first week.

"Definitely not," she said. "But in the second week: Yes."

The aging buildings at the school underwent a $13 million renovation last year. Second- through fifth-grade classes were held at Ashland Middle School and kindergarten- and first-grade classes were held at Rivergate Church.

Meanwhile, the district grappled with budget deficits, a result of the recession and declining funds from the state.

The district's $22 million budget for the coming school year is 14.8 percent lower than the budget for the 2008 school year. In total, 56 positions were cut as the district grappled with declining state funds for education due to the recession.

The district's director of education position, held by Michelle Zundel, was one of those on the chopping block. In a controversial decision, the district named Zundel, a senior district employee, principal of Bellview and laid off the former principal, Christine McCollom.

Although many Bellview parents and community members were angered by the decision in May to lay off McCollom, Zundel said the transition appears to be going smoothly.

Already, Zundel, a former principal at Walker Elementary School, has received words of encouragement from community members, she said.

"There was a note that said, 'Welcome to the Bellview family,' and I would say that sums up the sprit of the community at this time," she said.

On Friday, the halls were buzzing with students and parents as they filtered into the classrooms and familiarized themselves with the new layout.

"I'm excited to find out like where everything is," said Gabby Ogier, 8, who was inspecting her new third-grade classroom.

The teachers, it seemed, were just as excited as the students to have new classrooms and supplies.

"We finally get a big room — whoo hoo!" said Janet Davis, a music teacher at Bellview. "Now I can have all my instruments out."

Still, there are quirks to be worked out in the new building.

"I have no clock, no phone, no Internet access," Davis said. "They've told me it'll be next week."

Zundel said she's relieved to have the construction completed — because it means the students can return.

"I am thrilled to hear the laughter of children in the halls," she said. "It's been entirely too quiet."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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