It’s going to take two years for Riverdale Ridge to transition into a full-blown high school, with a graduating class of its own, a senior prom and competitive athletics. But the building is ready …
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It’s going to take two years for Riverdale Ridge to transition into a full-blown high school, with a graduating class of its own, a senior prom and competitive athletics.
But the building is ready now according to Principal Terry Elliott.
“We have coaches running activities and camps, we have teachers moving stuff in to get ready for the year and administrative teams for both the middle school and the high school are ready to work,” Elliott said.
Adams County School District 27J’s newest high school opened for an official ribbon cutting on Aug. 7 and students begin arriving for orientation on Aug. 9. Classes start on Aug. 14.
“Teachers have been moving stuff in since mid-July,” Elliott said. “It’s amazing how fast this summer has flown by.”
About the Ravens
Students have picked royal blue and light blue as the school colors and the Raven as the school’s mascot. The school’s website is operational too, at www.sd27j.org/rrhs.
The school will have about 1,200 students this year from the classes of 2021 through 2025. It should grow to about 1,850 by 2020, Elliott said. Students will come from the western part of District 27J, fed by West Ridge and Brantner elementary schools and Vikan and Prairie View middle schools. Students at the new high school would have attended Brighton High School or Prairie View High School.
For the coming school year, the 2018-19 school season, Riverdale Ridge will be a dual-purpose school serving the students that will be there for the next three years at least — freshman and sophomores on the upper floors and sixth, seventh and eighth graders on the bottom floors.
They’ll all roll forward a year for the 2019-2020 year, adding in a new class of sixth graders.
It changes again in the 2020-21 year as Rodger Quist Middle School opens across Yosemite Street from the high school, taking the middle schoolers with it and making room for the high school to spread out.
Elliott does not expect many conflicts between the middle and high school students.
“Kids are intermingled throughout their lives — at the shopping malls and movie theaters and weekend or with siblings,” Elliott said. “Middle schoolers are with high schoolers all the time, so the fear people might have I think is a bit overblown. After all, high schoolers tend to want to be around high schoolers and middle schoolers may have issues but they are with other middle schoolers.”
Efficiency and collaboration
Elliott said the school’s design demonstrates current thinking on safety and efficiency with lockable classrooms, segregated parking areas and plenty of wide windows and efficient lighting. The lights in the full-sized gymnasium, for example, are a series of sun tubes that pump in bright daylight largely indistinguishable from standard electric lighting.
Teachers have their own offices and will be encouraged to use those for most of their work, instead of the classrooms.
“They have spaces where they can collaborate with each other,” he said. “We really don’t have teachers’ desks in the classroom because when we do, that becomes their anchor and we don’t want that. Want them to use a collaborative space to be more supportive of each other and to work together.”
The classrooms themselves are fitted with movable desks and chair, tables that can be adjusted for sitting or standing work and different areas for students to work together.
“What I want people to see is that this is a building that feels more like a college campus,” Elliott said. “It’s built around student agency. We want students to own their learning, so the spaces are designed for them to be at the center.”
Made for the digital age, the library boasts fewer books but more transformable workstations and mobile power stations where students can plug in their laptops. It borders the makerspace, which will remain empty until the students can weigh-in and decide what they want.
“What we are waiting for is the students to tell us what they want,” he said. “We want the students to design it because when they do, they’ll have more ownership of it and what they can do.”
The college-campus styled commons area is designed to replace the old high school cafeteria, and Elliott said it has room for 600 people at a time.
“It’s a big building, but there are not as many classrooms as you’d think,” Elliott said. “The architect said early on that you can always add classrooms but you can’t add space. So, the hallways are wide and designed so that if the school grows, it still won’t feel crowded. It will never feel like that jam-packed high school hallway. It can accommodate a large number of people without feeling institutional.”
Four day week
Elliott said his students will also be getting used to District 27J’s new four-day school week. School officials approved the change in the spring which calls for days that are 40 minutes longer for students Tuesdays through Fridays. There are no classes on Mondays which are set aside for teacher development.
The change was made as a budget-cutting move and is expected to save the district about $1 million in bus transportation, food services and electricity through the 2018-19 school year.
Classes will begin at 8:30 a.m. for the middle and high school students and run through 4:30 p.m. It should work well for the students.
“We have later morning start, and all the sleep research says we have fewer problems with teenagers if we start later,” Elliott said.
Elliott said it’s just one more thing for the students to get used to.
“That’s exciting, too,” he said. “We have a lot going on. There are a lot of moving pieces to keep track of.”
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