TALLMADGE - The excitement was palpable as students toured their new school for the first time to learn where their classrooms, art, music and gym rooms are located.

The new Tallmadge Elementary School for kindergarten through fifth grade opens March 30 after students spend a week off on spring break. Hours will be the same with students arriving between 8 and 8:15 a.m. and the tardy bell ringing at 8:30 when classes begin. School is dismissed at 3 p.m.

Tallmadge will consolidate students from Dunbar Primary and Munroe Elementary into the new building. New bus routes and pick-up/drop-off times for the students have been established.

With the Munroe bus run and Dunbar bus run combined, the results are shorter routes, said Steve Wood, chief operations officer.

Wood said Feb. 20 they received a temporary certificate of occupancy so the teachers could move materials into the building.

Construction is for minor things and the building is fully furnished, Wood said.

"We have pods per grade level," Wood said. "Teachers have been filling pods for the last few months with books and classroom materials."

Munroe and Dunbar Principal Courtney Davis splits her time between the two schools and is coordinating the move.

The teachers have five weeks to move in and are boxing things they don’t need and putting them in the pods, Davis said. Others are taking some of their teaching materials to the fully furnished school. March 14 has been set aside for teachers to set up their classrooms and volunteers will be helping over spring break to help get everything ready.

Field trips to the new school began March 2 with a different grade level each day for students to tour the building, Davis said.

Fourth grade teachers Emilee Whitaker and Kristi Conley March 3 took their 52 students on a tour of the new school with other fourth grade students. 

The students carried in bins filled with more than a thousand books and placed them on the carpeted floor of their classroom which is in the corner on the second floor. 

"I like being on the second floor because you get to be higher up," said Donny Noah, 9, who also liked the higher tables.

A door comes in from the hallway and another door opens into the common area, which also has a glass garage door facing the open space used by all fourth grade students. 

Tables can be adjusted to different heights with different styles of chairs. Both are on wheels to easily move. The room has windows with blinds built in, white boards for lessons and containers for supplies.

They toured the building to learn where the art room and music room were located. Many of the rooms have folding walls that open for joint lessons.

"I liked the music room with the risers and microphones," said Katy Dreiding, 10. "The tour helps. If I came in on the first day and didn’t do this tour, I wouldn’t know where my room was."

Students learned where the office/reception area and principal’s office were located at the front of the building and the nearby mailboxes for teachers and clinic for students who become ill.

The students ran across the gym floor and traveled through the lunch line in the cafeteria where the fourth graders will share lunch space with the first graders. They also will share the outdoor playground area during a joint recess.

"I like the size of the gym," Ethan Pifer, 10, said. "I like the tour and learning about my new school."

Students went over the rules for the cafeteria and looked at the playground, which is divided into zones and is only partially finished. One zone is restricted to the first graders, but the older students were encouraged to help them.

"The first graders will need our help in lining up and where to go," Conley said. 

Restrooms have a special sink for filling water bottles and hand washing sinks near the opening so teachers can make sure hands are cleaned. Air dryers are installed instead of paper towels.

The common area opens to all the classrooms where teachers can watch students reading or working on projects. Bean bag chairs, tables as well as areas to stand provide different ways to study. Students are not allowed to take food and drink into the common areas, and they bring in their own supplies and clean up when they are done. 

"The common area is an extension of our classroom," Conley said. "All the teachers look over the common area and students must obey them."

A few reading nooks that look like small cabins overlook the staircases and common areas and there are small enclosed rooms for teachers to work with a small group of students or for students who can ask to use the rooms such as for a book club.

Another group area is the wooden steps students sit on near the staircase that creates a presentation area.

Maribel McBenttes, 10, said she liked the presentation area. Art is her favorite subject and she liked the yellow wall in the room as well as the microphones in the music room.

Conley and Whitaker said they are eager to move in and wanted to have classes now instead of waiting until  March 30.

"I’m anxious to come and live it," Whitaker said. "I don’t like the in-between wait."

Conley said she looks forward to the whole fourth grade having the same planning time and projects to do with all the fourth graders. 

Workers were busy putting on the finishing touches to the building. Conley and Whitaker said they would be in March 14 to work on their rooms. They’ve enlisted their husbands to help with shelves.

Then on March 18 and 19 the new elementary school will host the annual spring fling for parents and students only. Organized by the PTA, the two-day event combines an open house format with the spring fling family activities. 

The entire community is invited to the campus dedication on May 9 to view the new facilities.

The new elementary school is being funded through the passage of a 3.9-mill bond issue passed in November 2016. The bond issue, which raises $31 million, also has gone to fund a new middle school, which opened at the beginning of the school year in 2019. The cost of constructing the two schools is estimated at about $45 million. The remaining $14 million comes from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. 

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com