For the first time since 2016, JCPS will open a new school on the first day of classes

·4 min read

All last year, Allison Shockley’s third-grade class would look out the windows of their classroom at Indian Trail Elementary to watch as their new school was built.

Now, the large windows in Shockley’s new bright and airy classroom look out at an expanse of dirt — where their old school used to be. The site of the old building will be used for parking and a playground.

She ran into one of her old students recently, who exclaimed, “Miss Shockley! We did it! It’s finished!”

For the first time in several years, Jefferson County Public Schools starts the new school year by opening a brand-new school.

“The facility that we give to kids says a lot to them about how much we value their education,” Superintendent Marty Pollio said during a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday at the Newburg school.

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“The school they left on the last day of school that was right there,” he said, pointing at the field of dirt visible from Shockley’s window, “and the school, they're going into are two completely different learning environments.”

Indian Trail is the first of what JCPS hopes will be many new buildings to open across Louisville in the coming years.

After failing its initial building inspections, a new Wilkerson Elementary in southwest Louisville is expected to welcome students in the coming weeks.

Next fall, a new elementary school in the West End and a middle school near Floyds Fork are expected to open.

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Indian Trail is the first new JCPS school to open in six years, after Norton Commons Elementary opened on the first day of school in 2016.

A June court ruling allowed JCPS to use millions sitting in escrow from a 2020 tax increase, nearly doubling the district’s bonding capacity overnight and hastening the push to rebuild and renovate.

In the years to come, JCPS expects to build new homes for its two Afrocentric magnet schools and a new West End middle school. They also expect to invest $50 million in revamping high school athletic facilities and rebuilding five current schools, Pollio said Monday.

Close to three dozen JCPS campuses are considered to be at their “end of life” and need to be replaced. Some buildings make Pollio feel “embarrassed” the district allowed them to get to such a bad state.

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Indian Trail is no longer one of those buildings.

What used to be a dull, L-shaped building is now a school with wide, light-filled hallways and bright colors covering the walls.

“Oh my God!” one woman exclaimed as she walked through the building for the first time Monday. Another woman with her let out an enthusiastic “Woo!”

“Let’s go!” one of them said farther down in the hallway, their excitement echoing back into the lobby.

A multi-use “maker space” sits right off the entry, unopened boxes lining one wall. Cafeteria workers moved things around in the new cafeteria with bright orange seats on Monday. A library with tall ceilings doesn’t have books on its shelves yet, but stacks of board games and a pile of stuffed animals sat out, waiting for their new home.

Across the hallway from the library, a bulldozer worked on what will soon be the school’s outdoor classroom. A few strips of fresh asphalt and a semicircle with concrete benches stuck out in the dirt.

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Shockley is the fourth generation in a line of public school teachers, she said. She’s the first to get to teach in a brand-new building.

Moving into a new space should reduce some of the little interruptions that cut into learning time in the old building.

The heating and air conditioning systems were a little iffy, sparking student complaints about being too hot or cold. Monday’s ribbon cutting was held on a scorching, 90-degree day. Despite her large windows facing the sunlight, Shockley’s classroom was a solid 68-degrees.

Pieces of her old desks would come undone whenever students needed to shift around the room, leaving Shockley to put them back together again.

“Being able to know that that's going to be eliminated, that distraction?” Shockley said. “That's exciting in itself.”

When teachers got a chance to walk through the building, they could point out all the features they fantasized about.

Teachers “dream out what you want your perfect school to look like,” Shockley said. “And here we are.”

Her students are “dreamers and thinkers,” she said. Often, they come from under-privileged homes and don’t always get the things they need, she said.

"When we're able to give them a building like this, it's saying to them, 'you're worthy.'"

Reach Olivia Krauth at and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: New JCPS school Indian Trail Elementary opens on first day of school