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Students, Staff Break Ground on A.G. Bell Elementary Modernization

On the last day of the school year, construction begins to modernize the aging Kirkland grade school.

Students and staff at  in Juanita celebrated an ending and a beginning today. Just before school let out for the summer, crews broke ground on the school's $15.6 million modernization project.

“The project will be done in two phases, with the school completed in Fall, 2013,” said Lake Washington School District senior project manager Sean Ryan.

The Lake Washington School District is currently in phase two of its school modernization project to update school buildings every 30-40 years. Bell Elementary was built in 1967. The funds for modernization come from the district's voter-approved 2006 bond measure.

“Principal (Curtis) Anderson wasn’t even born yet,” Superintendent Chip Kimball pointed out to the crowd of kids and parents, earning giggles from the students.

Principal Curtis Anderson took a test run as the backhoe operator before students arrived on the field, instructed by Keith Schwope of RSC Equipment Rental. Then, students filed out to the field straight from the end-of-the-year assembly. They managed to remain orderly throughout principal Anderson’s introductions of the Bell remodel crew, including the designer Craig Mason of the DLR Group, Brian Dague of Mortenson Construction and the LWSD project managers Ryan and Nick Diede.

The DLR Group also designed Rose Hill and Thoreau Elementary schools. But the Bell project has special sentimental status, since Sarah Greg of the firm’s accounting department is an A.G. Bell alum.

A small choir sang an original song with silly Bell Elementary lyrics sung to the tune of “Dinah Won’t You Blow Your Horn.” Teachers and parents that are part of the “Mod Squad,” a group instrumental in the planning process, were easily identifiable in their green and yellow hard hats.

When the time finally came to break the ground, principal Anderson impressed the crowd with his backhoe skills while a group of hand-picked students wielded shiny shovels. One student from each grade was selected based on their success at “Living the Bulldog Way,” the school’s slogan, embodying academic success as well as kindness towards others.

School counselor Sara Hay led the charge and students, along with Superintendent Kimball, scooped up the first shovel-fulls of dirt. With the digging underway, the remaining student body, now antsy from too much sitting, made their way through the cake line to commence the real celebration -- summer!

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