Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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New-look elementary school to open its doors

Stocking library bookshelves and setting up classrooms, school staffers worked 14-hour days over the weekend to meet today's midyear opening of John C. Bass Elementary School in the rapidly growing southeast area of Las Vegas.

Construction crews rushed to place the finishing touches on the school, which opened its doors to about 450 students in grades kindergarten through five. The school can accommodate up to 900 students.

"We are so excited about this new facility," Principal Teddie Brewer said. "We had teachers in tears because they love this facility. This is probably the best I've ever seen for an elementary school."

Bass Elementary is more than just a permanent home for its students and teachers, who spent the first semester in portable classrooms at nearby Cartwright Elementary School. It is also the first school featuring a new design that will be used for future elementary schools.

Bass Elementary is the first to open under the $3.5 billion school construction bond approved by voters in 1998. Through 2008 the bond measure provides for the construction of more than 88 new schools.

The new elementary school design is more airy and playful than previous designs. But it also is geared toward classroom programs, technology and safety.

Cathedral ceilings with windows lining the upper walls give the library a bright, open look. Hallway windows overlooking an outdoor atrium provide natural lighting in school hallways. Both the library and outdoor atrium feature areas for storytelling or other school activities.

Brewer said two of her favorite features are the large windows near the entrance -- that allow administrators to see who is entering and leaving the school -- and the tiled floors.

"All of the hallways are tiled, so it's much cleaner than carpeting," she said.

The natural lighting represents a change in philosophy for the school district.

"In the '80s, there were a lot of problems with vandalism in the schools," said Domingo Cambeiro, whose architectural and engineering firm helped design the prototype. "That caused the district, and as a result, us, to limit the number of windows in schools.

"But now we have had the opportunity to place more windows in the schools, which brings in much more lighting. It's also more playful, with colors and designs that make it more inviting to elementary age students."

Additional features of the school include:

For many of the students, the new school on Rancho Destino Road, between Bermuda Road and Las Vegas Boulevard South, will be the third they have attended, Brenda Montoya, president of the school's Parent Teacher Association. It's a price of living in a high-growth area, where school zones can change yearly.

"It's amazing the number of schools we put out, especially in areas of such high growth," School Board President Mary Beth Scow said. "We feel very fortunate that voters have supported the bond issues."

The new design will be incorporated into 50 more new elementary schools opening over the next eight years.

In the next few weeks, several of those schools will open, among them Sheila R. Tarr Elementary, 9400 W. Gilmore Ave., Elise L. Wolff Elementary, 1001 Seven Hills Drive, and Ethel W. Staton Elementary, 1700 Sageberry Drive.

The elementary schools cost between $9 million and $9.5 million to build, Fred Smith, director of the district's construction management department, said.

Twelve new schools are scheduled to open in August, among them five elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools. The district also plans to open the replacement school for Sunrise Acres Elementary School, 2501 Sunrise Ave.

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