SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When students enter Jefferson High School for the first time in roughly two months, they’ll be facing East as they walk in the main entrance and should see the sun rising.
Jefferson’s first principal Dan Conrad led media members on a guided tour of the new high school, which is located in the northwest part of the city at 1600 North Marion Rd.
You can view photos of a nearly finished JHS in a slideshow below. The Sioux Falls School District took control over the building but plenty of furniture is still being brought inside.
Jefferson High School was built to house around 2,000 students but in its first year, it’ll be home to 1,470 students. The first day of school is set for Thursday, Aug. 26.
Jefferson’s sprawling campus is 330,000 square feet, bigger than Lincoln, Roosevelt and Washington High Schools.
The school has an “industrial” style throughout the building. It highlights natural light, which has three academic wings facing west and two academic wings facing east. Just south of the main entrance, a coffee bar separates a hallway leading into the “media center,” which is a not enclosed library.
Conrad said the design is an example of a school “leaving the traditional rows and columns of classroom sets and we’re working more towards that communal learning environment.”
He called it a needed “collaborative environment” and he said challenge will be learning how to use some of those communal spaces. After students get inside the school, Conrad said their voices after the first few weeks will play a role in determining how to use certain spaces.
“Some of the rules we live by in high school probably have to look a little different as we get here,” Conrad said. “It’s an on-going adventure.”
One of the more unique aspects of JHS is the “learning stairs,” which overlook the courtyard. Conrad said the enlarged block of stairs can be a place for teacher-led, student-led and outside group-led presentations. It can also be a before school, lunch spot or after school gathering area.
“There’s going to be visible learning,” Conrad said. “We hope that connects classes; we hope that connects interdisciplinary studies and opportunities for kids.”
Conrad spoke about creating new traditions for Jefferson High School. He said three main items come to mind with Thomas Jefferson — the Declaration of Independence, Louisiana Purchase and the University of Virginia. He spoke about embracing the adventure and exploration that came with the Louisiana Purchase and bringing in the use of compass.