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Jordan School District opens doors on its last planned school

Published: Monday, July 28 2014 5:34 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, July 28 2014 5:34 p.m. MDT

Fourth-grade teacher Jana Sharp gets some help with a board from one of her students Monday, July 28, 2014, at the new Blackridge Elementary in Herriman.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

HERRIMAN — Summer ended early for students at Blackridge Elementary, a new year-round school that opened its doors for an inaugural school year Monday.

Vice Principal Rebecca Lee said the grand opening proceeded with relatively few surprises, but considerable work remains at the school.

Blackridge's library contained little more than carpeting; its computer lab had no computers; the gym and cafeteria were blocked off to serve as a staging area; and portable fans were placed throughout the school to make up for an absent air conditioning system.

"We’re a little rough around the edges, but we’re having a great day, really and truly," Lee said.

The Jordan School District's newest and largest elementary school, a modified version of the two-story design seen at Silver Crest Elementary and Eastlake Elementary, is also the last in the district's plans.

After opening four schools in as many years, district spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf said Jordan retains several pieces of property, including a recently purchased parcel in the Daybreak area of South Jordan, but there are currently no plans — or funds — to construct new school buildings.

"We don’t have any type of timeline or time frame on when we would build those schools," Riesgraf said.

Though no more schools are being built, district officials say more will continue to be needed.

Blackridge Elementary was the last school slated for construction in a district already sagging under the weight of its student population and expected to add some 7,000 bodies by the summer of 2023.

The new year-round elementary in Herriman opened effectively at capacity with 1,004 students and comes pre-equipped with the necessary space and infrastructure to install portable classrooms in the future.

"If they’re needed, we already have electrical and we have space outside for them," Riesgraf said.

Lee said teachers are already being asked to rotate classrooms, a logistical complication that isn't often seen in new schools. Rotation allows for greater maximization of classroom space but also presents challenges, such as splitting a grade into different areas of the school.

"That kind of separates them," Lee said. "It makes it a little more challenging for (students) to know where they’re supposed to be."

Jordan's school board proposed a roughly half-billion bond last year to secure funding for new buildings, but voters rejected the proposal by a 2-to-1 margin.

Enrollment in 2014 took a slightly smaller jump than district officials projected for the year, a result attributed to an increase in charter schools and other school choice options in the area.

Riesgraf said the district does not know how many charter schools will open or close from year to year, which makes for a constantly evolving picture of school capacity.

But while enrollment in charters may take a bite out of district school class sizes, the overall student population within the district's boundaries continues to grow.

Charters have the ability to set enrollment caps, but district schools are expected to house any students who return to the traditional school system, as many elementary- and middle school-age children do when they reach the high school level.

"We have to be prepared for that too, which is kind of difficult sometimes," Riesgraf said.

The opening of Blackridge has relieved some of the enrollment pressure at neighboring schools, particularly Butterfield Canyon Elementary, Herriman Elementary and Foothills Elementary.

District spokesman Steve Dunham also said the location of Blackridge allowed the district to eliminate some pocket busing routes, in which students from high-growth areas are transported to attend class at less populated corners of the district.

Lee said the administration at Blackridge is cognizant of the growing pains that are likely in the school's future, but a more pressing concern is the work that remains for its launch.

"You certainly have a lot more things to consider in regards to safety and procedures and how things are going to run," she said.

Lee also said it's also exciting to be a part of the launch of a new school, from the selection of a mascot and colors to the simple everyday routines that will eventually become commonplace.

"We don’t know what’s going to happen, whereas in a settled school you know," she said. "That’s one of our biggest things is just procedures. It’s going to be a process, and we’re going to learn and change."

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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