Although the school year doesn’t begin until next week, dozens gathered at Gem Prep’s newest facility Thursday evening.
The new building, which you may remember as a Sears, is now Gem Prep’s “forever home.”
“It’s kind of crazy because it doesn’t feel like we’re part of a mall, it doesn’t feel like we’re part of a department store, it feels like a school,” principal Gerald Love said.
For Love and the other Gem Prep Pocatello administrators, Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony has been a long time coming.
The school had been operating out of a much smaller location and utilizing trailer style buildings to deal with capacity restraints. Now, Love is filled with excitement, five years in the making.
“We’ve anticipated this for five years,” he said. “We’ve been living out of modular buildings for five years and to have this come to fruition and see all the classrooms built and modeled, I think it’s just a wonderful thing.”
The difference is something both teachers and students are taking note of.
“All the students came in and were so excited, ‘you have your own room and it’s so big and it’s so nice,'” teacher Nancy Gibson explained. “It’s a night and day difference, it’s wonderful.”
“It has a lot more space and we don’t have to do our P.E. outside, we can do it outside or inside,” 7th-grader Brookenzie said.
That increased size is already making a difference for the school. This upcoming year will be its first offering 7th and 8th-grade classes, a trend they hope to continue.
“Next year we’ll add 9th and 10th, 11th and 12th, not all at the same time, obviously,” Love said. “But we have the space already built for K-12, so I’m looking forward to growing.”
A message assistant principal Heather Windward echoed.
“I’m really excited to widen our contribution and to serve more students,” Winward said.
And doing so in a place where she used to shop.
“Yeah, I have a history here,” she said. “I shopped here, but I’d forgotten it. It’s a professional place of education now and very much reflects that.”
The new building features things like eyewash stations in science classrooms which will allow teachers like Camie Parsons to perform real experiments with her students.
“The kids that I’ve met with so far seem really interested in science and I’m really looking forward to the chance to start getting messy,” Parsons said.
Gem Prep will host its first day of school in the new building next Monday, August 19.