The San Ramon Valley Unified School District welcomed its newest addition, Bella Vista Elementary School, on Monday with an opening ceremony including speakers, a meet-and-greet with staff and a ribbon-cutting.
Nearly 100 school staff, parents, students and community members joined together to celebrate the new elementary school, which will open for classes next week in the Dougherty Valley with 520 students ranging from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade.
“We have a whole new class of eager kids and that’s always exciting even with the challenges that it brings: making sure the school is as good, fun and successful as all the others in the district,” new SRVUSD superintendent Rick Schmitt said. “I am new to (this community), so I’m excited to be learning alongside the families.”
The ceremony Monday featured a number of speakers, including Barb Mallon, Bella Vista’s first principal, who began her comments by thanking her fellow staff and parent-teacher association for their hard work preparing for opening day.
“The staff and I are looking forward to having the energy of students on campus. We’re ready to get things moving and watch it all come to life,” Mallon said.
School board president Greg Marvel explained that Bella Vista and its soon-to-be community are products of support from many people.
“The voters in the Valley have put education first and allow for these schools and modernization projects to occur,” Marvel said.
He said he knows that these contributions will help Bella Vista as it carries out its philosophy: “to keep as many doors open for kids as possible.”
Schmitt also commented on the community support Bella Vista has received, saying he feels it is one of the reasons the new elementary school is so special.
“Today’s ceremony happens because of a community like ours who knows how to invest in public education,” Schmitt added. “With the support of our trustees, staff, business community and leaders, this school will be as amazing as the others in a world-class way.”
Bella Vista Elementary, which aims to help alleviate overcrowding at other Dougherty Valley campuses, developed from a three-way partnership between the city of San Ramon, Shapell Homes (now Toll Brothers), and the SRVUSD. Shapell Homes and the city provided the land to the school district, which built the school mainly with funding from the $260 million school facilities bond local voters passed in 2012.
Bella Vista will be the first elementary school in the district with Project Launch – a program focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program focuses on activity, projects and problem-based STEM curriculum, providing students a chance to apply what they know, identify problems, find unique solutions and lead their own learning.
Courtney Fischer, a first-grade teacher at Bella Vista who grew up attending schools in San Ramon, said STEM is just one of the things she’s excited about as she begins her teaching career at Bella Vista.
“It’s going to be so fun bringing in STEM and hands on programs to the school,” Fischer said. “It’s also cool to be able to come back to my community and to be able to create a new community not only with staff but as a whole school.”
Schmitt spoke to attendees about another one of Bella Vista’s programs called a “maker space,” which provides hands-on ways for students to design, construct and explore science and engineering.
“This is our first campus with a maker space. It will help students collaborate with each other and be creative,” he said. “This was a result of listening to parents to help make something that will lead students to success.”
The new school is located at 1050 Trumpet Vine Lane, approximately half a mile southwest of the Dougherty Station Community Center and Library across the street from the city’s 30-acre Rancho San Ramon Community Park. Bella Vista has been built to accommodate approximately 830 students on a 7.4 acre site, which overlooks the San Ramon Valley out to Mount Diablo.
Kathy Moore, San Ramon’s outgoing poet laureate and district curriculum coordinator, spoke of Bella Vista’s views as she read her last poem ever as laureate at the ceremony.
“Our San Ramon Valley, our beautiful view … today is a day to celebrate and commemorate … our Bella Vista, our beautiful view,” Moore read.
Marvel ended the ceremony as he cut the ribbon alongside roughly 40 kids, many of whom will be back at Bella Vista next Monday morning for their first day of school. With smiles on their faces, they watched as their future school was officially welcomed into the community.
Mallon said she knows that opening a new school requires work, but the principal also feels that Bella Vista will be grander than she ever envisioned.
“Today begins our story as the Bella Vista Trailblazers. And we aren’t always sure where our trail will lead, but the one thing I’m sure of is that our future is shining so bright we’ve got to wear our sunglasses,” she said with a smile.