School district officially dedicates Bernard Middle School

By Alyson E. Raletz

Mehlville School District administrators, teachers, parents and pupils celebrated the official dedication of Emil Bernard Middle School Saturday at the new building, 1054 Forder Road.

Superintendent Tim Ricker addressed the audience and thanked McCarthy Construction, Dickinson Hussman Architects, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities, staff members and former Superintendent John Cary for their help in getting Bernard Middle School built.

“It is bricks, mortar, steel and glass — it is the flagship of Prop P,” Ricker said.

When district voters approved a 49-cent tax-rate increase in November 2000, the cost of the Proposition P district-wide building improvement program recommended by the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Facilities was estimated at $68.4 million. Current projections indicate the cost of Proposition P will be at least $86.7 million.

Renovations and improvements have been completed or scheduled for all of the district’s buildings, but Proposition also called for new construction of three new schools — Bernard Middle, Oakville Elementary and an early childhood education center. Construction of Oakville Elementary is under way, while construction of the early childhood education center will commence next year.

Bernard, the district’s fourth middle school, was the first Mehlville school to be built in 10 years and cost more than $13 million. The building currently serves more than 800 pupils.

Principal Michele Condon told a gymnasium filled with about 150 people that she remembered when taxpayers had approved Proposition P three years ago and Board of Education members were considering a name for the new middle school.

“Mr. Walt Bivins, who is now one of our state representatives, was on the Board of Education and he made the motion that this middle school should be named after Emil Bernard. And I remember thinking, I should probably find a little bit about Emil Bernard,” she said.

Through Condon’s research, she discovered that Bernard was the first superintendent of the Mehlville School District.

He grew up in south county and lived on Cliff Cave Road. After attending college, he returned to the area and became a teacher at St. John’s Elementary School.

She said now the people who work and attend Bernard Middle have a chance to become the next part of Mehlville’s history.

Board of Education member Bill Schornheuser also was the Bernard Elementary School PTA president during the time the middle school was being built. There were many people, he said, who worked hard to support Proposition P and Bernard Middle.

“But I want to thank the community for allowing us to do this,” Schornheuser said during the dedication ceremony. “What a wonderful building we have.”

During the ceremony, Bivins, a state representative from Oakville, presented a U.S. flag that previously had flown in Jefferson City as a gift to the new middle school.

“We all know it took a significant amount of dedication to complete this project,” Bivins said. ” … It required the dedication of the taxpayers … And now it requires the dedication of all of us to ensure this facility is utilized and maintained …”

Also, during the event, Middle School Band and Concert Choir members entertained audience members and Bernard Middle boy scouts led a full gymnasium in the Pledge of Allegiance after a presentation of colors.

After the dedication ceremony, Student Council members led a balloon launch.

Audience members followed the pupils outside to the school’s flagpole. The pupils then released handfuls of blue, red and white balloons into the air. Each helium-filled balloon had been stuffed with written messages containing the school’s new mission statement.

Earlier in the program, Travis Zimpfer, seventh-grader and a Bernard Student Council representative, had read the school’s newly formed mission statement to the audience.

“The mission of Bernard Middle School is to provide a safe, supportive environment with high expectation for all students and ensuring that each individual will learn and achieve,” Zimpfer said.

Cindy Christopher, board president, told the Call that Bernard Middle now is one of the only buildings that can be utilized by the community members. The gymnasium can be blocked off from the school and can be used for meetings and events and still offer restrooms and water fountains for those present.

Ricker told the Call that he and other staff learned a lot that will be transferred over to the construction of Oakville Elementary, but there was one aspect with which he was especially pleased.

“It’s not traditional,” he said, but it’s not too modern or futuristic — it’s a facility that fits the needs of the children.