New sidewalks on the front entrance side of David E. Norman Elementary School was just one of the improvements made to the school during the summer. (Staff photo by Lukas Eggen)

New sidewalks on the front entrance side of David E. Norman Elementary School was just one of the improvements made to the school during the summer. (Staff photo by Lukas Eggen)

As parents arrived at David E Norman Elementary on Monday, a different sight greeted them. The White Pine County School District (WPCSD) completed a $600,000 project to improve the conditions around the school in an attempt to make dropping off and picking up students more efficient and safer.

“It was less organized (last year) because we didn’t have what we have now,” WPCSD Chief Financial Officer Paul Johnson said. “People would make do with what we had. They didn’t have places to pull off and drop their students off. The drop off and pick up was on the street.”

But several changes will help alleviate that issue and increase student safety, as well as efficiency during times before and after school. On the 11th street side, new sidewalks and new asphalt was installed over the summer. Directional arrows were painted to assist in the flow of traffic.

Near the corner of 11th Street and Avenue M there is overflow parking for events and a one-way road where parents can pull off to drop students off away from traffic and closer to campus. On the Avenue M side, the road has been widened on the school side to allow parents to pull off the road and away from traffic to drop students off.

“This is probably one of the better features,” Johnson said. “The City of Ely worked with us so we could take this property and pave this so it makes the street wider, so that helps with student safety along this corridor. Now parents can pull up off the street on something that doesn’t turn into mud in the rain and kids can access the school here.”

Widening the street also makes it easier for snow removal because they no longer have to deal with piles of gravel and dirt forming, Johnson said.

On the 10th street side, new fencing provides a barrier between the playground and the turn out where buses park with entry points designed to help organize students better when both arriving and leaving school.

“It’s designed to increase transportation efficiency, transportation safety and decrease the risk of incidence and increase student safety,” Johnson said. “Aesthetically it looks a lot nicer because it looks like somebody lives here and somebody’s taking care of this place.”

The new fencing on the Avenue M side was also designed to help funnel visitors through the front entrance, making it easier to track and check in visitors during the school days.

“There’s a rolling gate so now we can actually close our campus,” Johnson said. “It will make the campus a little safer. People who are visiting now will have to go to the front office to check in before they can access any of our facilities.”

New asphalt was also placed on the playground, which snow and ice to drain away from doors when melting.

Norman Elementary Principal Rebecca Murdock said she received numerous positive comments from parents during the opening days of school.

“Everywhere I went this morning before school, I received compliments about the grounds,” Murdock said. “I told them to thank a Board of Trustees member for the investment they have made in the safety of our children. Parents were upbeat and cooperative in learning the new procedures.”

The money used for the project came from the capitol improvements fund, meaning those funds could not be used for any other purpose. In the coming years, Johnson said there are plans waiting to be reviewed that would make “significant” improvements to various facilities.

“I think people will see some refreshing changes in the coming years,” Johnson said. “That’s because the voters, in my opinion, did the right thing and allowed us to leverage the money that we have to improve the school facilities.”