IMAGES | Look inside Norton Commons Elementary, JCPS' newest school

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The newest JCPS elementary school has energy efficient LED lights with motion sensors and geothermal heating and air conditioning units in each classroom -- two state-of-the-art features district officials say will help reduce utility bills.

In addition, each Norton Commons Elementary School classroom will have Epson interactive projectors and a library media center that features a makerspace, a collaborative learning center that will provide students with hands-on and creative ways to design, experiment, build and invent.

WDRB News was given an exclusive first look inside the two-level school on Friday, which is costing the district about $15 million to build and will open in July -- six weeks before the first day of school on Aug. 10.

"It is going to be an absolutely amazing school," says Allyson Vitato, who was named the school's principal in February. "It will be a fantastic place for kids to come every day and I think they will take a lot of pride in the school."

It will be the district's 92nd elementary school and the first new facility to open since Ramsey Middle School opened in 2008. Two other elementary schools -- Farmer and Stopher -- were also built and opened in 2007.

The developer of Norton Commons donated the land to JCPS years ago and work began on the new school last spring. 

Mike Raisor, chief operations officer for the district, says construction is "moving along as expected."

"Our plan is to open the building on July 1," he said. "We are very pleased with the schedule thus far."

Vitato says the Epson interactive projectors are a "step above traditional smartboards."

"They also project larger and that provides more work space for the children," she added.

The library media center will be used as a research hub, said Vitato, adding that the school will have the Engineering is Elementary program, which supports educators and children with curriculum and professional development that develops engineering literacy.

"And we will have laptops for the children to use throughout the day as they work on certain projects," she said.

The school is filled with lots of natural light -- including floor to ceiling windows in the hallways -- and the bathrooms feature an open concept with sinks at the front in plain view.

"It provides us with the opportunity to insure that instructional time is not being lost due to horseplay or other misbehaviors in the bathrooms," Vitato said. 

The geothermal heating and air conditioning units will allow teachers to control the temperature in their classrooms.

"There is no chiller and no boiler and there are air filters in each room," Raisor said. 

The school also has another unique feature -- it will connect to the Norton Commons YMCA through a gym.

"It will be one of the only connections between a YMCA and a school in the United States," Marilyn Osborn Patterson, marketing director for Norton Commons told WDRB News in February. "We are very excited about that."

In February 2015, JCPS and the YMCA worked out deal for the shared gymnasium, with JCPS paying approximately $900,000 for the gym, while the YMCA will pay about $983,000.

Both entities will share use of the athletic fields and playgrounds on the school property and the parking lot on the YMCA property, with JCPS having first priority of use of the shared premises during school hours and priority for use of the shared premises for field days and carnivals, home games and other school-related functions after school hours.

In addition, the YMCA gave JCPS an additional acre of land so it will have enough space to accommodate parking, Raisor said.

Vitato says she is particularly excited about the eight early-childhood units that will provide preschool to 50-75 students.

"Being able to provide that educational experience from age of three all the way up through fifth grade will be very beneficial to the school," she said. 

The school's preschoolers and students in grades kindergarten through third grade will be housed on the first floor, while fourth and fifth graders will be on the second floor.

Norton Commons Elementary will have a capacity of 800 students, but is only expected to have approximately 400 students the first year.

District officials say that even though the school is being built in Norton Commons, it is not a school just for that community — it will serve students across the entire county.

It will be the district's 92nd elementary school and the first new facility to open since Ramsey Middle School opened in 2008. Two other elementary schools -- Farmer and Stopher -- were also built and opened in 2007.

The school board has approved a plan for the assignment of students at the new school. The district will draw the boundary using only Chancey Elementary School's existing boundary area and there would be no changes to Zachary Taylor Elementary School students.

District officials said the boundary has several advantages, including being the "least disruptive and providing extra capacity within Cluster 10 for future growth."

Vitato says that parents should have received their welcome letters last weekend and that she is the process of hiring teachers for the school.

"It's been so exciting to hear from parents," she said. "Obviously, they will play a very, very important role in this school."

The school's colors will be blue and white, but at least one thing will be left up to the kids.

"We will let them choose the mascot," she said. 


Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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