Great expectations

With Fort Dodge Middle School opening next month, the building’s teachers and staff were given tours Friday of the nearly completed facility.

Gathering in the school’s cafeteria, tours in groups of 10 were led by Principal Ed Birnbaum, assistant principals Mark Johnson and Ryan Flaherty, and FDCSD Superintendent Doug Van Zyl.

Johnson described the new building as “unbelievable.”

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s like going to school for the first time.”

Since its ground was broken in 2011, Johnson has watched the construction of the new middle school for the 2013-14 year.

“It’s amazing how hard everyone is working to get done on time and how well people work together to coordinate all this stuff,” he said. “It’s really a puzzle to put it all together but these people know what they’re doing.”

Johnson said he feels proud to be a part of the new facility.

“I started teaching here in 1979, at Phillips (Middle School) and North Junior High,” he said. “And now to see this whole new thing, it’s kind of neat.”

Marilyn Charon, a teacher in the district for 37 years, spent 20 years at Fair Oaks Middle School and five years before at Phillips. She was one of the first to arrive Friday for the tour.

“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I’ve never worked in a brand new building before.”

Charon, along with her fellow educators, has been anticipating and preparing for the transition to the new middle school for two years.

“I’m excited for it,” she said. “I threw a lot of stuff away that was old, not only mine but other teachers before me that had backpiled. It was a good time to clean up, see everything I had and take inventory.”

Charon visited the building last year, when tours were given after it first became enclosed. On Friday, she truly saw her classroom for the first time.

“I saw it when it was just metal and no walls,” she said.

Tina Krause, a secretary at Phillips for four years who will now be one of many greeting the new building’s visitors, joined in the tours.

“I am very excited for the students and for the community to have this new building,” she said. “It will be a great opportunity for our students here.”

Krause’s excitement for seeing the building, though, was outmatched by the students earlier that day.

“It’s great to see the kid’s reaction when they saw it for the first time with some of our eighth grade tours, who are going to be tour guides came through today,” she said. “You could see their excitement for the building.”

Van Zyl said Friday he was pleased to be leading his staff through the district’s new facility.

“It’s a great opportunity for staff to get in here and see the building for the first time,” he said. “They’ve heard a lot, had a lot of anticipation, and we’re just glad to give them that opportunity to be able to walk through it.”

As always, Van Zyl was excited to see the building so near to completion.

“There’s still a lot to do, but I’m excited our staff is here and get to see it,” he said. “I’m even more excited about the great things that will happen in here later on.”

Guided tours will be held throughout the week for the school’s students culminating with a public tour Aug. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.