By Josh Magill
The air was filled with jazz music on Saturday morning in Spanaway as nearly two hundred people gathered to celebrate the opening of the new Bethel Learning Center. The music produced by the Pierce County Community Big Band under the direction of Shawn Sandvig accompanied smells of breakfast food that emanated throughout the building.
The new building erected across the street from Bethel Middle School on 38th Ave was packed with area residents and dignitaries prior to the dedication and ribbon cutting. Teen chefs from the Boys and Girls Clubs helped feed the crowd, which enjoyed the warmth inside after escaping the sprinkles of rain seen for the first time in more than two months.
A covered porch at the rear entrance kept the band dry, while a fireplace next to the front reception desk welcomed shivering attendees. Members of the Naval JROTC stood guard outside the front entrance to help with parking and crowd control.
Bethel School District Superintendent Tom Seigel quieted the crowd promptly at 9:30 a.m. and then introduced JROTC members from the three district high schools to present the flags for the playing of the national anthem. When the anthem was done, he gave a caution.
“The builders were not done until late last night,” stated Seigel with a chuckle. “Yes, this is a fresh building, so watch for wet paint. They worked so hard to make this happen and we are proud of the result.”
Seigel introduced many that helped make the $2.5 million project with a combination of state and federal grants, plus community and district funds. The current Learning Center building is the first step in a multi-phase project, which has been designed to meet the needs of the district and the community. The building features three meeting spaces, office space and a kitchen, which will be available for district and community use. Future phases may include a pool, multi-purpose classrooms, gym/weight room facilities, and recreational fields.
A few notables in attendance were state senator Randi Becker, state congressman Jim McCune, Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri, former state senator Marilyn Rasmussen, U.S. congressman Dave Reichart, and state senator Mike Carrell.
After Seigel’s comments, he introduced BSD Board President John Manning.
“We wanted this building to be more than classrooms,” commented Manning. “This building represents an opportunity for our students. Let’s not waste it.”
The learning center is expected to be a cooperative building between the BSD, the Boys and Girls Clubs and Bethel Recreation, which will all use the building for after-school programs for teens. Both Mark Starnes, President/CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Carly Cappetto, Director of Bethel Recreation, see the structure as an investment in the future of our children.
“This building will help our teens feel welcome because they have a place of their own,” said Starnes. “We are so happy with the support from Tom Seigel and the Bethel school board.”
Cappetto agreed. “We have this [recreation] program so students can gain leadership skills through after-school activities. This building makes that even more possible.”
A plaque was presented to the builders, Jones and Roberts Construction, by an excited young woman named Cassie Tudor. Tudor recently received the Boys and Girls Clubs ‘Youth of the Year’ award.
The final speaker was Timothy Tyvan, Chief Master Sergeant of the Washington Air National Guard. In a pressed uniform and with a clear military voice, Tyvan expressed the comfort and acceptance he felt the new building brings to the local military community.
“There are many members of the Armed Services in this school district community,” remarked Tyvan. “We are the bedrock of the community, the fireman, policeman and much more. I’m the proud father of twin girls in the Bethel School District and so happy they can be here to enjoy the many things available to them.”
The Vivace! Choir helped wrap up the dedication with renditions of the songs Oklahoma and Africa, after which a small ribbon-cutting was performed and a tour of the building announced. The band started playing great music again, continuing the celebration that is sure to last for years to come.
© 2012 Josh Magill