Where is my classroom?

Ethan Hollingsworth, holding paper, and Nolan Dashney, sixth-graders at Heartland Middle School, check out their class schedules on the Outdoor Learning Steps Friday.

Edmond School District’s sixth middle school in the district opened Friday. And with its opening 926 students streamed through the doors along with 50 faculty members.

A few more students than anticipated showed up and some classes were overflowing.

“The first hour was spent getting new schedules in each student’s hands, and then we had an impromptu pep rally,” said Principal Jason Galloway.

“In the grand scheme of things, I think this has been an incredible open. I am so proud of the staff, they have been helping since the building opened Aug. 6. Everybody has really been on board to make sure this will be an incredible opening.”

Heartland Middle School, located at 4900 Explorer Drive off Pennsylvania between Danforth and Covell, is adjacent to Frontier Elementary.

The opening day had been looked forward to by students of Frontier Elementary School, as they had watched the new 158,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art learning center rise from the dirt.

“The total cost of the school was $31.691 million and the furniture costs were right around $1 million, said Superintendent Bret Towne.

“Once the architect was chosen, we spent about six months touring middle schools in the Kansas City and Dallas/Fort Worth area,” Towne said.

Included in this time period, a team of teachers, administrators, coaches, technology and operations persons worked with the architect in the preliminary design of the building. All in all the design took about a year and the construction took two years, Towne added.

“The design of Heartland was a thorough and intensive process which combined building design, technology and furnishings into cutting-edge learning spaces. These classrooms and collaboration spaces support integrated learning opportunities in which students not only gain foundational knowledge, but are allowed to use that knowledge in various models which support teaming, collaboration, presentation and technology,” Towne said.

“This building will be iconic,” said Edmond Public Schools’ Chief Operations Officer Christina Hoehn said as the building was going up. “The building itself is a teaching tool throughout.”

Assistant principals Gabe Schmidt and Karyn Garcia joined Galloway the first day. They could be seen all over the school helping direct students to their classes and assisting students, some of whom had never used a combination lock.

“It is amazing how many systems came online this week,” Galloway said. “The elevator yesterday, the intercom and fire alarms last night, and the rest of the technology is being installed today.”

Teachers started the day with locker assignments and getting-to-know-each-other games.

Each grade is divided into wings and the wings into six neighborhoods plus one outdoor classroom. Each wing has a different color block throughout. A pivoting glass wall is in most of the rooms, but one room in each neighborhood has a wall of windows looking outside.

“It is exciting to be on the ground floor of opening a new school, from helping establish curriculum to working in what I think is the finest facility in the state of Oklahoma,” said English teacher James Reagan, who will be teaching sixth- and eighth-graders.

“I was really, really excited to come here. I am ready to get to know the students.”

Both Reagan and sixth-grade English teacher Cathy Pettijohn-Russell started the first day with a critical and creative thinking game. They introduced their students to a name game involving a foam pool noodle. The teachers had learned the game while attending a Great Expectations summer workshop.

“The day has been very smooth and calm,” said Towne. The staff at the 16 schools I visited today spoke to a very orderly, but exciting opening of a new school year.”

A native Oklahoman, retired school teacher Patty Miller taught journalism and English for 30 years before beginning her second career as a reporter for The Edmond Sun in 2000. She is a previous winner of the OPA's Beachy Musselman Award.

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