The adults gave the speeches, but the kids made it official.

Journey Elementary student Taryn Drinkwalter, joined by fellow students, stood among Natrona County School District officials, teachers, staff, and the designers and builders of the new school on Monday evening.

With a snip or two, they cut the long blue ribbon to mark the latest and one of the last schools that will be built in the county.

The 53,211-square-foot building, and the adjacent 26,323-square-foot building with a gym and other classrooms cost $14.5 million, and was built on time and under budget, said Paul Syverson of the State Construction Department.

It was built on the site of the former CY Junior High School, and the gym was saved and remodeled

Principal Coebie Taylor-Logan said most of the approximately 300 students -- pre-kindergarten through fifth grade -- came from the now-closed Grant Elementary and the now-closed Mills Elementary schools. The school also has about 20 teachers and 20 staff, she added.

Taylor-Logan was a principal at Mills Elementary for 15 years and said that school had infrastructure problems and growing pains, she said. "It was very compartmentalized in rooms -- four walls, doors -- so kids had a hard time collaborating, and teachers had a hard time collaborating."

Leaving Mills Elementary for Journey Elementary was bittersweet, Taylor-Logan said.

"It was sad because there was a community there, and kids (were) within walking distance," she said. "But once we moved into a space to see what we could do, it just sunk in that we're in the right place."

The school features "project-based learning," with students doing hands-on problem solving such as when they built solar-powered ovens and needed to learn where to place them for the best cooking temperatures, Taylor-Logan said.

The learning areas are set up as "villages" for the different grades. The villages have "houses" -- open classrooms without the traditional four walls and a door. Taylor-Logan said. Each village also has a commons area, too, she said. "It's just very free-flowing where they can go where ever they want to."

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

But as this Journey begins, others end, said Kevin Christopherson, chairman of the Natrona County School District board of trustees.

Last year, the trustees voted to close Grant Elementary, following a recommendation from a committee tasked with evaluating the district's buildings' conditions.

The district, like others in the state launched a building boom during the past decade that coincided with the energy boom and the influx of families, Christopherson said.

Those plans ground to a halt along with the economy, the state funding for schools, and the departure of a lot of families. The district recently announced it has 970 excess seats.

So more ending are probable, Christopherson said. "Closing down schools is hard."

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