PROVO Hundreds of children decked out in their school uniforms of red, white and blue shirts and khaki pants waved tiny American flags to welcome their new school building.
Freedom Academy charter school, now in its fifth year, celebrated its 64,000-square-foot structure with a ceremony and ribbon cutting Friday morning.
The new building, at 1190 W. 900 North, gives the school more space than the charter school's old building, which was located in East Bay, at 1958 S. 950 East.
The old building 44,000 square feet was formerly occupied by Franklin Covey.
"I absolutely love this new school," said eighth-grade student Aaron Downer, 13.
Teacher Julie Lafranca says the new school is big and modern.
"It's state-of-the art," said Lafranca, who teaches French, Arabic and Spanish part time at the school.
Freedom Academy's charter was approved by the State Board of Education in 2002, and the school opened its doors in fall 2003.
Ken Parkinson, school governing board chief administrative officer, said that back then charter schools weren't as common and numerous as they are today in the state.
"We were on the forefront of the charter school movement in Utah," Parkinson said.
The school started with about 350 students and now has 650. It teaches students in grades kindergarten through eight. The school has an academic emphasis with the theme "Soar Without Limits."
"I think it's an amazing accomplishment," said Lynn Herring, Freedom Academy director. She cut the oversize red ribbon at the front of the school with a huge scissors as the students chanted, "Cut it! Cut it!" followed by cheers and applause.
Herring had some help from Provo Mayor Lewis K. Billings.
"You have done something that is amazing, and we compliment you. Way to go," Billings said to the audience during the ceremony.
The new building, funded by donations and investors, cost $10.75 million.
It was designed by VCBO Architects, based in Salt Lake City. Construction was by Peck Ormsby Construction Co., based in Lehi.
Students and parents said they especially like having a gym separate from the lunch room.
The school administration did the best it could with the old building, but the new structure "fills every need for a great education," said parent Suzanne Bailey, who has two boys attending fifth and third grades at the school. They have been at the school since it opened in 2003.
Charter schools are non-mainstream public schools. They are not allowed to charge tuition nor discriminate in accepting students. Charter schools are subject to the same testing and curriculum requirements as are all Utah public schools.For information on Freedom Academy, call 437-3100 or go to www.pfa.cc