(Lander, Wyo.) – On Thursday evening, Fremont County School District 1 dedicated the new Gannett Peak Elementary School to the “education of current and future elementary students.”
Superintendent of Schools Mike Bowman made the formal dedication at the end of a ceremony attended by local politicians, current students and teachers. He proclaimed that all students regardless of demographic differences would be treated equally and with “dignity and with respect.”
The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem by Lander Valley High School Seniors Montana Sannes and Kennedy Thatch. Northern Arapaho Elder Nelson White Sr. then gave the opening prayer. He prayed for the good of the school.
95-year-old Eastern Shoshone Elder Starr Weed Sr. spoke about how his schooling differed from the use of today’s technology. “I started school on a horse,” he said. Weed said he implores his children and grandchildren to respect their teachers, bus drivers, cooks and administrators.
Many of the evening’s speeches centered around the school that GPS is replacing, the historic South Elementary School. Shannon Batenhorst and her husband, Board Member Joe Palladino, presented the school with two bear sculptures (seen in the photos) that were made from the trunks of two trees from the old South site to make room for GPS.
School Board Chairman Brett Berg said the board didn’t take the decision to demolish South lightly. He said the completion of GPS marks the end, essentially, of a decade-long process to move to grade level campuses.
Dan Odasz of Plan One Architects and Gregg Olson of LM Olson spoke about their involvement in the project and the incorporation of elements of South into the new building. Odasz noted that the front door is in the exact same location as the old one, and he pointed out the history wall where pieces of the original school were included.
“It’s going to be a great school for years and years to come,” Olson said.
Olson said he thinks Lander is the only town in Wyoming with two LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified schools, GPS and Lander Middle School.
GPS Principal Jade Morton said he is honored to be the first principal of the school that now houses kindergarten through third grade students. He said its probably rare that a principal gets to be the last in one school and the first in another on the same site.
“We will ensure we will provide a quality education to every student who walks through those doors,” Morton said.
Former North Elementary Principal Yvette Majerus is now Morton’s assistant principal.
Bowman said the school will strive to be the best-performing in the state, similar to the fact that Gannett Peak is the tallest mountain in the state. “The names gives us something to shoot for,” he said.
(Joshua Scheer photos. Click to enlarge.)