Education

Students at Indian Trail Elementary school in Newburg will start the school year on Wednesday in a new building. 

Officials are touting the $16.5 million facility as a major upgrade. The building has wide hallways, modern classroom design, large windows for natural light and geothermal heating and cooling. A large courtyard will eventually serve as an outdoor classroom space. 

“The facility that we give to kids says a lot to them about how much we value their education,” Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Marty Pollio said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning.

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio speaks at a podium outside the new Indian Trail Elementary. He is flanked by red and black balloons. Parents, staff and students are off the the side watching him speak.Jess Clark | wfpl.org

JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the new build at Indian Trail is the “first of many” new facilities to come.

The district is in the midst of a building spree as leaders rush to replace dozens of buildings that are beyond their intended lifespan. The former Indian Trail Elementary school was built in 1959 and had issues due to its age, including an ailing HVAC system, according to Pollio.

The old building also lacked a tornado shelter, but the new facility has a special part of the building that can withstand tornado-strength winds. The announcement of the storm shelter drew applause from staff and families. A recent state law requires all new school buildings to include such a shelter.

“Research tells us now we have a different style of building, when students walk into this building, that they will feel welcome, they will have a greater sense of pride that will result in greater student success,” Jefferson County Board of Education Chair Diane Porter said.

Many students who toured the building Monday morning were excited about the new space.

“Our new school looks amazing!” Indian Trail third grader Titus Thompson said.

But some were still getting used to the fact that their old school is gone.

Less than three months ago, students were still going to the old school. Over the last two years they watched the new facility rise up behind the old one, beam by beam. Then, this summer, the district demolished the old building.

“It was like a week after they demolished it, we came back and we was like [gasp]!” rising fifth grader Ellison Hazel said. Her younger sister, Emerie Hazel, said she wanted to cry looking at the acres of mud where her old school once stood.

“I didn’t want it to get torn down for a silly parking lot,” Emerie said.

But her mom, Edwina Hazel, said she thinks it’s a “good change.”

“Being able to come to school and say ‘Wow they care enough about me to change my entire school. They cared enough about me to make sure I had air conditioning, to make sure I had computers, fresh books.’ This is really good for them, I feel like. It’s just a good start for all of them,” Hazel said.

“This is the first of many,” Pollio said. Three other schools are still under construction: a new West End elementary school, a middle school in southeast Louisville and Wilkerson Elementary School in southwest Louisville. 

A wide hallway in a modern new school building, with tall windows and high ceilings. A wide staircase leads to the second floor.Jess Clark | wfpl.org

Parents toured the new Indian Trail Elementary school, which features wide hallways, lofty ceilings and large windows for natural light.

The new Wilkerson was supposed to welcome students on Wednesday as well, but the building failed its inspection with the city last week because work was still unfinished, including on the roof. 

Officials are hoping to have construction finished on Wilkerson within weeks. In the meantime, Wilkerson students will be starting the year at the old Watson Lane Elementary facility, about six miles south. 

Plans are also in the works for a new West End middle school, and new builds for W.E.B. DuBois Academy and Grace James Academy of Excellence.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.