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Columbia Lions roar with pride for new school facilities

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REDDING, Calif. - "It's just sparkling at this point and so are all of us we're pretty shiny," first grade teacher Concie McNerney said at Columbia Elementary School's ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new classrooms.

Fourth grade teacher Suzie Scatena echoed McNerney's sentiments.

"To be in a building so new and shiny and beautiful, it's exciting," Scantena said.

For the last academic school year, first, second, third and fourth grade students were taught in temporary portables.

McNerney said she and her students would watch the construction every day and track the progress.

Principal Cortney Pratt said she's thrilled that the construction was finished in time for this school year, despite the heavy rains last winter.

Pratt explained that the teachers began decorating and preparing their new classrooms well in advance, which was something they didn't have to do.

"They were in here almost every day making sure these kids were going to have an amazing year, so (there's) definitely a whole new level of energy," she said.

In a time when educators often feel underappreciated, fourth grade teacher Joanna Gordon said she feels fortunate to have the support of Principal Pratt and Superintendent Clay Ross.

"It's a wonderful experience," she said. "To be able to feel like we're listened to and we're heard."

Columbia's teachers and staff, who call themselves a family, will be brought even closer, as all same-grade classrooms are now connected by a conjoining break room.

McNerney cited drinking fountains, more cabinets and more book space as some of the classrooms' other amenities.

The classrooms are also heavily tech-driven.

"We have smart boards, the kids all have Chromebooks, and I have a little microphone so I can speak and it comes through the speakers," McNerney said.

Superintendent Ross explained that the classrooms' LED lighting adjusts based on natural light to illuminate every inch of the classroom with the same level of brightness.

Safety features like blackout shades and a brand new gate around the facility will enhance security of students.

Ross explained that this project has been a long time coming for the Columbia Elementary School District.

"It's been in the works since 20016," he said. After a bond measure that failed to pass in 2008, the school finally got necessary funding from Measure E, which passed in 2014.

As a previous teacher, Ross said he's seen the school go through highs and lows.

"I consider this to be another high, another step forward, another chance to ensure that we're going to make children learn...without limits and without excuses," he said. "We've got a good thing going here."

"Bring on the kids!" fourth grade teacher Mary Masulis exclaimed. Students begin school on Wednesday, August 16 and new desks will arrive in two weeks.

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