August 29, 2008

Knightsen School District Opens New Campus

By Paula King

Backpacks and school supplies weren't the only new things on the Old River Elementary campus for the first day of school Monday morning.

Old River Elementary is the Knightsen School District's first new school in 72 years. As 114 students settled into their new classrooms on Learning Lane in unincorporated Brentwood, construction crews were still putting the finishing touches on unused classrooms and the last bit of landscaping.

Students admired the newness of their desks as they got acquainted with their teachers and classmates. In the third-grade class, students played ice-breaker games to familiarize themselves with their peers.

"We get to make new friends, and it is really fun to meet new people," third-grader Jenna Kinnard said.

This academic year, the new campus opened to just six classes in kindergarten through fifth grade. In the future, a full-size gym, library-technology center and additional classrooms will be added to the 16-acre site.

Located in a rural area within Knightsen's school boundaries, Old River is home to students from Knightsen Elementary, transfer students from other neighboring communities, and children from Discovery Bay's nearby Lakes subdivision.

Knightsen School Board member and Lakes resident Kristen Rhiner said the school has brought a more neighborhood feel to the area.

Several students rode bikes or walked to school Monday, and a pedestrian gate is being installed for nearby neighbors. Rhiner's son started second grade with only 15 students in his class.

"He is just excited that it is so close. I'm just so excited that it is finally here and finally done," she said.

As part of the first day's festivities, students sported Old River Otters T-shirts and posed in a group photo. Last year, students at Knightsen Elementary voted on the school mascot and colors.

Old River Principal Ray Witte is just as excited about the new campus and his new position. He is the former Knightsen vice principal and district special education director and technology coordinator.

"I don't know of anyone as a new principal who gets to open a new school," he said.

For now, Old River will share special education, science and music teachers with Knightsen Elementary, the district's only other school. The campus houses a full-day kindergarten, YMCA before- and after-school care, and a private preschool called My School Preschool.

The preschool is open to children ages 2 years, 9 months to 5 years. It runs weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"The district wanted to provide a preschool experience for some of the siblings attending the school," owner Karen O'Leary said.

The school's temporary library is filled with many new books. The temporary and permanent libraries will be named in honor of late Knightsen School Board member James Frank and his deceased wife and former Knightsen teacher, Myra Frank.

The library dedication and school grand opening is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The campus is at 30 Learning Lane, one block from the intersection of Orwood and Bixler roads.

Paula King covers education in far East County. Reach her at 925- 779-7189 or [email protected]

Originally published by Paula King, East County Times.

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