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Phase 1 of nearly $80M Westside district bond issue complete

Five Westside schools now have functionality and safety upgrades thanks to a bond passed more than six years ago.
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 6:30 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - After more than a year and a half of construction, sixth graders at Prairie Lane Elementary school were welcomed back Monday as they prepare to finish up their school year in the new building.

The school, which underwent a $10.7 million renovation, was the last of five Westside schools that did the same.

The funds from phase one, totaling $79.9 million, went towards additions and complete renovations of Oakdale, Sunset Hills, Swanson, and Westside Middle School along with Prairie Lane.

The bond issue was passed by voters in 2015 and for households valued at $150,000, the issue increased property taxes by $13.17 monthly over a 20-year maturity period.

A celebration at Prairie Lane was held Monday afternoon, with sixth-graders excited to explore the fresh building.

“It feels good. It looks really different!” says Jude Van Belle, who was chosen to help cut the ribbon.

“We are ecstatic, it is so beautiful with so many flexible spaces and color and excitement for our students,” Principal Belinda Westfall tells 6 News.

The schools had not been renovated since the 1960s and school board members said they were in serious need of security and structural upgrades to improve the functionality and safety of the buildings.

“We have safety in the corridors where you walk in through the front doors and just a totally different layout that is more safe for our students and staff,” Westfall says.

Westside Superintendent Mike Lucas thanked Westside community members for their commitment to their students and reminded students to be thankful.

“Students, take advantage of this wonderful gift our community has given you, work hard, treat others well, set yourself up for success for many many years to come.”

Lucas also thanked former superintendent Blane McCann who oversaw the beginning of the project.

“We hope that you see how much love and care that we’ve all put into opening the doors for you and for our future,” Principal Westfall tells her students.

Phase II of the bond issue will include smaller upgrades and additions to Paddock Road, Hillside, Rockbrook, Westbrook, and Westgate Elementary Schools. It’s expected to begin in 2023 and end in 2028.

The rest of the school will join the sixth graders on Tuesday for their first day in the new building.

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