Harriet Rowley Elementary School welcomes students

September 6, 2018

MOUNT VERNON — For Madison Elementary School students, the first day of school was the start of a new adventure.

With shiny new floors, a fresh coat of paint and what Mount Vernon School District Assistant Superintendent Bill Nutting described as a “new car smell,” the district’s new Harriet Rowley Elementary School on Wednesday welcomed teachers, students and their families.

“It seems to be very nicely built,” said Arturo Nuñez as he dropped his son, Noah, off for his first day of third grade. “It seems to accommodate kids nicely. I think it’ll make a nice impact for them.”

This year, the building will be the home of the Madison Wildcats. Next year, when the students move back to their newly reconstructed Madison Elementary School, Harriet Rowley Elementary will become the permanent home of a new group of students with an as-yet unnamed mascot.

In the meantime, Principal Juan Gaona said Madison students and staff are ready to make it their home for the school year.

“It’s amazing,” Gaona said. “It’s amazing for the community to have, amazing for our students. It’s just awesome.”

As they settled into their new building and their new classrooms, students went through all the first-day rituals: finding their desks, meeting their teachers and learning new rules.

“We’re gonna do a lot of fun stuff,” first-grade teacher Judy Vivanco said to her students.

The two-story building features large windows and lots of lights — a far cry from the cracked windows and walls the students had grown accustomed to at the old Madison Elementary building.

With shades of teal and splashes of yellow, the new building sits in a wooded area with a view of Mount Baker.

“We have a nice view of the forest,” fourth-grader Zoey Houlihan said.

On their first day of school, Zoey and classmates Ashley Lopez and Alexis Gensburg worked on a scavenger hunt to learn about their class and the new school.

Aside from making new friends, the girls were excited to work hard during their fourth-grade year.

Kindergarten, first- and second-graders have their classrooms downstairs, while the other grades have classrooms upstairs, something the older kids appreciate about their new building.

At a cost of $32 million, it is the district’s first new school in 20 years.

The school is the first part of a $106.4 million five-part project, which will also see the reconstruction of Madison Elementary, additions to LaVenture Middle School and two projects at Mount Vernon High School.

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