School Designed With Longevity in Mind
Despite setbacks, West Wendover’s new elementary school becomes a cherished reality
By Dianna Troyer, Photos by Sarah Spratling
For 21 years, Brenda Carter taught classes in a modular trailer—one of more than a dozen erected to deal with crowding at West Wendover Elementary School.
“We have four classes for each grade level, so I moved around the trailers teaching third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades, and being the reading specialist,” says Brenda, who left the classroom eight years ago to become the vice principal.
Knowing firsthand the need for a new building, Brenda says she and the teachers are grateful to have started the new year in a new 89,000-square-foot school.
“Our custodians and high school student volunteers moved us in over Christmas break, so we came back from the holidays with a brand new building waiting for us,” Brenda says of the school’s 650 students from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade. “Teachers are really happy to have the space.”
Each 900-square-foot classroom features new interactive white boards.
“We owe a huge thanks to the superintendent and school board,” Brenda says.
Elko County School District Superintendent Jeff Zander says the district has not built an elementary school of this size and scope since 1926.
The two-story building has a full-sized elementary gymnasium and multipurpose room with kitchen.
Brenda says while it is exciting to work in the new building, it is equally thrilling that her former students have become her colleagues.
“We have seven teachers who came back after college because they want to work here,” she says.
While the need for a new school was obvious for years, a series of uncontrollable economic setbacks in Elko County stalled the project several times.
Tax revenue declined when gold prices dipped in the ’90s. The national recession in 2008 also impacted the district’s finances.
Once a five-year capital improvement plan account was sufficiently funded, the Elko County School District Board of Trustees approved building the new school and transforming the former elementary school into a middle school for grades six to eight.
The new 32,500-square-foot middle school is expected to be ready for 260 students in August.
“The cost for each facility with architecture, engineering and land was $27,737,007 for the elementary school and $7,427,901 for the middle school,” says Jeff.
At the same time financial setbacks occurred, technological advancements in energy conservation were being developed. They have been incorporated into the new school.
“The building’s energy-efficient features include a four-pipe heating and cooling system, low-E reflective windows, highly insulated roof and walls, and 100 percent LED lighting with controls,” says Project Manager Brandon Weholt, who works for Design West Architects. “All materials were chosen for low maintenance and longevity.”
Except at the play-field, landscaping minimizes water use, he says.
“We chose rock mulch for ground-cover, a drip irrigation system to water the trees, and synthetic turf along with hardscape for the play areas,” Brandon says.
The school’s aesthetic features were chosen to make the building unique and blend in with the natural desert beauty surrounding Wendover.
“Tinted, reflective windows are both energy efficient and bring reflections of the vast blue sky into the facade,” says Brandon. The school’s exterior colors incorporate hues of the landscape.
“Tan and shades of brown and gray mimic the mountains,” he says. “Narrow horizontal bands of white are a nod to the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats.”
Brenda says parents appreciate the building’s appearance and told her the school is a blessing to the community.
“They feel fortunate to have this beautiful building,” she says. “It will accommodate community recreation programs, too.”
Principal Patrick DiSpirito, nicknamed Mr. D, says when he interviewed for his job, he was impressed with the school board’s determination to construct a new building to accommodate growing enrollment.
“People here care about education,” says Mr. D, who is in his second year as principal.
At the new school’s groundbreaking ceremony in May 2015, managers of general contractor Ascent Construction gave red T-shirts to students and staff to celebrate.
“We still wear them on spirit days and other special occasions,” says Mr. D. “When they gave us the T-shirts, the contractors reminded us that education is like the foundation of a building and provides a solid future.”
He says the community’s dedication to education was one of several factors that persuaded him to move from Virginia to Nevada.
“I’m glad that kids here are respectful, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time with discipline issues,” Mr. D says. “You set high expectations for them to meet, and they rise to the challenge.”
The new school was designed for a projected enrollment of 720 to ensure room for future students.
“An extra classroom was built for each grade level,” says Mr. D. “We’re ready for the future.”