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Wilkes' wait is over

A young Wilkes student spends part of his recess watching the heavy equipment continue work at the new school Wednesday. - Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review
A young Wilkes student spends part of his recess watching the heavy equipment continue work at the new school Wednesday.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

If Tamara VanWinkle sounded a little frazzled or fatigued at last week’s Bainbridge Island school board meeting, she had every right to be.

VanWinkle, the director of facilities and capital projects, had just finished the madcap marathon of getting a new elementary school finished in time for the start of classes on Aug. 29.

Sadly, there was a stumble at the end. Ongoing construction and the possibility that students might not be safeprompted the Bainbridge Island School District to postpone the opening until Sept. 4.

VanWinkle told the school board the city had wanted to give the district an occupancy permit, and worked up until the last minute in the hopes that it could happen. It didn’t.

Still, VanWinkle said the delay was actually a good thing in the end.

“It wasn’t the right thing for the teachers,” she said.

The school staff needed to feel good about their teaching environment, but like the building, Wilkes employees just weren’t ready.

“Those first days are so critical to the success of our students,” VanWinkle added.

Workers and school staff put in a yeoman’s effort to get the school ready. There were many late nights toward the end, and staff from other schools and the district office came by to help.

When needed furniture didn’t arrive, the contractor borrowed desks and other furnishings from the Bellevue School District, all in an attempt to make the Aug. 29 deadline.

The school opened to rave reviews from parents, staff, and most importantly, students, this week.

As they filed into Wilkes, their voices could be heard above the sound of heavy machinery outside.

“Cool! Awesome! It’s beautiful!”

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