Everything about the new Garfield Elementary School made George Hutchinson smile as the 87-year-old walked the halls Monday.
“Looks just the same to me,” Hutchinson quipped.
Hutchinson first walked the halls of Garfield Elementary School on his way to Miss Wilson’s first grade classroom in 1930.
“That was my only good year in school,” he said.
Hutchinson got to see the school along with Enid Rotary Club members — many of them also getting their first look — during the Rotary Club meeting at noon Monday.
Enid Public Schools Superintendent Shawn Hime talked with club members about the sparkling new school building soon to throw open its doors for students and accompanied them through the building to answer questions.
“This building was built for $130 per square foot,” Hime said. “That’s over a million below budget.”
Hime gave credit to local contractors for holding down the lid on the cost of construction and renovation work. He also used the opportunity to offer reassurance.
“All of our buildings will open Aug. 22 and have class,” Hime said. “I know we’ve had some rumors.”
He also drew a few comparisons between the designs of Garfield and Prairie View Elementary School, the other new structure built as part of a $99 million school bond issue. Prairie View also will take its first students this month.
Hime said Garfield expects about 600 students for the 2012-13 school year, and Prairie View expects about 400. New furniture is being moved into Prairie View Monday and today.
Hime said recruiting enough teachers to stock the district schools for the 2012-13 school year was difficult because the pool of available teachers is becoming smaller.
“Now that we’ve hired teachers, we’re having a hard time finding them places to live,” Hime said.
The old Garfield School on East Broadway will remain standing for a time, and the hallways and classrooms will be filled with students this fall and spring. Hime said it will house Longfellow Middle School students during the renovation of their building.
As for Hutchinson, he especially approved of Garfield’s cafeteria. He said it’s far better than the Garfield cafeteria of his memory: “The cafeteria was just atrocious. I went there once, and after that, I walked home for lunch.”
After Hutchinson graduated Enid High School, he joined the Army and served during World War II. He took flight training and was a pilot during the Korean war. He went on to make his living as a professional pilot, moving back to Enid in 1999 and settling into the house his parents had built on Maine.