Meadows Elementary open house provides ‘Back to the Future’ experience

Complete remodel displays progress following passage of 2021 school bond
The renovation of Meadows Elementary is a good start for Ralston's bigger plan of zeroing in on education and its schools.
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 10:57 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Mr. Cain and some of his class of 1986 sixth-graders didn’t expect to be going through the time capsule they buried in a concrete wall at Meadows Elementary over 37 years ago.

At least not yet.

“Ideally we were gonna leave all this stuff in these tubs until 2061, the return of Halley’s Comet,” the now-retired science teacher said. “With the construction that happened here in the building, I heard about it last winter, so I talked to the principal and said I didn’t want the construction crew to accidentally destroy it. It was inside a cement wall.”

So with that old stuff spread on tables, the back-to-school open house had to feel a little bit like “Back to the Future” at the newly configured and renovated Meadows Elementary.

Everything inside looks completely different from the school they attended so many years ago.

“We did a walk-through a few weeks ago, and just seeing it all come to life because we’ve been talking about it for quite a while seeing it all come to life and realizing, hey, this is actually our school that we’re we get to work with students, and families in,” teacher Alison Follmer said. “You can just feel the excitement in the hallways and seeing everyone walk by and their eyes lighting up.”

Gone is the open plan more suited for a college or office, replaced by classrooms and bright walls, new floors, and doors, lights and state-of-the-art, well, everything.

Readying for a new school year has truly never been like this.

“We’ve been looking at our facilities and upgrades we need to make for the last decade ago,” Ralston Public Schools superintendent Jason Buckingham said. “We’re so excited about, number one... our taxpayers having enough confidence in us to pass a bond a few years ago, and we’re really excited about tonight and seeing how many people we have out here seeing one of the projects coming to fruition.”

New superintendent Jason Buckingham sees Meadows as a sort of model for the district, listed as Ralston’s one “great” performer in the state accountability system. Meadows is one of six elementary schools in the district.

“We’ve seen here over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a resurgence here in Ralston, we’ve seen a lot of downtown development in Ralston,” he said. “We’re starting to see some of the kids that I worked with when I was an educator, moving back here specifically to be part of the community and be a part of the school system.”

The teachers appreciate the changes, from simple to modern.

“Just having, you know, cool air all through the building is nice,” Follmer said. “Our technology has definitely been upgraded... we have a new microphone system, so, you can talk just in a regular voice, but it’ll go out to the same level to all the students no matter where they’re seated in the classroom. So that’s huge that all the students will be able to hear that instruction the same way.”

This is just one part of the overall plan for building a modern education system in Ralston.

The Future Ready Ralston initiative is funded by $83.75 million from the district’s first bond issue passed two decades back in 2021.

“Just being able to close a door to have a quiet environment if you’re taking a test or something that, you know, you really need to focus in on,” she added. “We weren’t able to do that previously, so very thankful for that, and I’m sure, you know, the students will be too.”

And as for what goes in the next time capsule, Mr. Cain’s not sure if some of the old stuff will be thrown in with the new, which includes Pokémon toys and other indicative memorabilia.

No official location has been chosen for the new one, but officials said it will not be hidden in any of the new walls.