Highgate Elementary School Approaches August Completion
Highgate Elementary School, a collaborative effort between Castle & Cooke and Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, has been counting down the days until the first day of school since 2014. Now, after beginning construction in January of 2020, the August 2021 opening is clearly in sight. Katie Russell, Superintendent of the School District, shared her thoughts about the vision and culture she had for Highgate Elementary, the first school to open during her tenure. “It’s always great to be on the cutting edge and see what a new school designed for educational excellence can do for a child. This school will allow students to become part of the community.” One of her first decisions was the selection of a principal for Highgate Elementary; someone who could help implement her vision for the school and its students. Her choice for this important position is Steve Johnson.
Principal Johnson has made it his mission to create the right educational culture at Highgate Elementary. “We’re at the point of building a culture to create a beautiful place to learn,” he shared. “It includes all staff: the teachers, the teachers’ aides, classified and the administrative staff that will help welcome the parents and children when they first come through the doors.” Coordinating that effort is Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Jennifer Irvin. Jennifer’s hands-on approach is reflected in her working as a team with staff and the community to create Highgate’s boundaries to assisting with the choice of the color palette that will represent the school. Principal Johnson also engaged future students and the Highgate community by launching an interactive poll of parents and children to help select the new school’s mascot. After careful deliberation, students at Highgate Elementary School will now be known as the “Highgate Huskies.”
Highgate Elementary blends seamlessly with Highgate at Seven Oaks, reflecting many of the community’s design elements. The same red brick and wrought iron seen in the signature Highgate Clock Tower have also been incorporated in the new school building. Paul Johnson, Facilities Director for the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, made sure that every aspect of the school would help make Highgate at Seven Oaks an even more desirable community. “It’s as beautiful looking in as it is looking out,” he said. “A public school adjoining a gated community is a phenomenal hybrid.”
Along with this new school come many new features. Energy efficient classrooms allow natural sunlight to be controlled and used throughout the day. A new Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) provides students a combination lunchroom and performing arts space, while an attached music room can be used for instrumental instruction and choir classes. A unique “floating” acoustic ceiling is designed to control sound levels so all these spaces can be used simultaneously.
Excitement about the opening of Highgate Elementary School has had residents of Highgate at Seven Oaks buzzing, and families are eager to drop their children off at the new school. Many of them feel just like Highgate residents Trevor and Brandi Bazemore. “We have watched Highgate Elementary being built from the ground up and we are so thankful to have this amazing school in our neighborhood. We are excited to watch our children and neighborhood grow. Go Huskies!”