The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

August 6, 2013

Easton Valley ready to open its doors for first school year

By Katie Dahlstrom Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — MILES — Melinda Thomson and her husband JT sported opposite colors in high school. While one wore Preston Trojan red and black, the other was covered in East Central Raiders green and gold.

But on Monday, the only colors on the couple’s minds were Easton Valley Riverhawks orange and grey.

Nearly 200 people attended open houses at the Miles and Preston schools Monday as the Easton Valley School District approaches its inaugural school year.

“When we were in school we were rivals, but now we’re part of Easton Valley,” said Melinda, who is a second-grade teacher with the new district. The couple also has a daughter, Elsie, who will be second-grade student in the district.

Melinda’s classroom used to be the library for the Miles School. Books don’t line the walls anymore. Now, desks fill the room, owls encouraging students to learn dot the space and a fresh coat of paint covers the walls.

In addition to the work put in by school staff, community members volunteered thousands of hours to transform the buildings in time for the first day of school on Aug. 15.

“It’s neat to know that they did this for the school and the students. It makes me feel like I need to work that much harder because of all the hard work they have done,” Melinda said.

The painting, moving and decorating started this summer around the time the Easton Valley School District officially took over the Preston and East Central districts on July 1.

“It was fun to help with the transition over the summer,” fourth-grade teacher Heidi Lippens said. “I think it gives the community a lot of ownership in the school district.”

During the open house, students and parents met their teachers, fellow members of the Easton Valley community and toured the schools. Many of the students who will be the first to walk the halls as Riverhawks also learned about their relatives’ histories in the buildings.

Among them was Jennessa Johnson, 7, whose mother ,Joy, graduated from East Central in 1994. During the open house, Jennessa searched through the photos of previous classes to find Joy’s senior picture.

“It feels good to be back here,” Joy said. “I’m very proud that she will be a Riverhawk. When I was in high school, I thought Preston and East Central should have combined then.”

The merger discussion has been ongoing for years and was settled in September when voters chose to merge the Preston and East Central districts.

Monday’s event ended with a ceremony in the Miles gym where Superintendent Bob Lagerblade and other Easton Valley administrators thanked the community and school staff for uniting for the district.

“It’s great. It’s all coming together. We still have some things to do, but it’s all coming together,” School Board President Craig Thines said. “I’m ready to see the first day of school.”