With a new year comes a new school for the students and staff of one of Fort Mill’s oldest and most beloved schools.
Riverview Elementary School moved to its new location on Spratt Street over the holiday break, making it the third new elementary school building the Fort Mill school district has opened in the past six months.
As students returned from break Tuesday, they were greeted by staff and volunteers, directing them and shouting, “Welcome to your new school!” Everyone wore matching T-shirts that read “Riverview Relaunched 01.06.2015.”
Despite all the excitement that came with the new building, new furniture, new technology and everything else that went along with it, Principal Annette Chinchilla said she wasn’t doing anything special to mark the first day.
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“We’re getting down to business and straight into instructional time,” she said as she greeted students Tuesday morning.
On the first-grade hall, teachers had their kids sit in the hallway while they took attendance and lunch orders, then let them file in together to see their new room for the first time.
Teacher Lauren Davis said she loves her new classroom, which she set up over the break. Fort Mill built three days into the calendar to help teachers out, but many staff members were in their rooms on their own time, teachers said.
“We’re going to be going over some procedures, since they’re changing a little bit from the last classroom to this classroom,” Davis said.
The district broke ground for the new building in 2013 on a large piece of land on Spratt Street, near the intersection with the Fort Mill Bypass, about two miles away from the old Riverview off Harris Road and U.S. 21. The new Riverview was built so the district could convert the old building into more space for Fort Mill High School, which sits on the same property.
The rapidly growing school district is looking to delay building a third high school by expanding both Fort Mill High and Nation Ford High.
The new Riverview Elementary was built with the same floor plan as Tega Cay Elementary and Doby’s Bridge Elementary schools, both of which opened over the summer.
It took a “Herculean” effort by a lot of people to get Riverview ready to open on Tuesday, Superintendent Chuck Epps said.
It was just a few weeks ago the building got its certificate of occupancy. Until students left the old Riverview building on Dec. 17 for the break, teachers weren’t supposed to pack anything up, so students didn’t experience disruption in their instructional experience.
Several things weren’t completely finished by Tuesday’s opening, but nothing that would disrupt daily classroom life, district spokeswoman Kelly McKinney said.
High levels of moisture caused by recent wet weather meant the tile floor couldn’t be put down, so the contractor just sealed the concrete, which gives the school a modern, industrial look. Crews will come in to complete the tile installation over the summer, McKinney said.
“The grounds are the part we did not get finished in time,” Epps said, “but we hope to finish that up shortly.”
Much of the school grounds are still dirt, which means, thanks to all the rain, they’re currently mud. During her welcoming chats with each of the grade levels on Tuesday, Chinchilla told students not to go near the mud to help keep their new school clean. Luckily, the playgrounds were built on solid, mud-free surfaces.
On Tuesday, there were some traffic issues on Spratt Street, but Epps said that was to be expected, especially because it was the first day. Police officers were monitoring and directing traffic.
For Dede Sulemani, Tuesday was her daughter’s first day in kindergarten at Riverview Elementary – old or new. The family just moved to Fort Mill from Chicago, and Sulemani was impressed with the school’s atmosphere and how organized the teachers and staff seemed in the new building.
“Everything is very nice,” she said. “I couldn’t expect anything more.”
Kindergartener Maddie Storm likes her new classroom because it is larger than her old one.
“I love it,” she said of her new school. “It’s beautiful and big.”
Her classmate, Beatrice Dodson, likes all the new “stuff,” such as the stamps and geoboards, a math manipulative.
Beatrice had one word for her new school, her teacher and her principal.