A look inside Lenexa Hills, Shawnee Mission’s newest elementary

Lenexa Hills Elementary opened to students for the first time ever on Friday.

The Shawnee Mission School District’s 34th elementary school opened for the first time ever last Friday.

Just blocks away from the bustling construction at Lenexa’s City Center — including the district’s new competition aquatics facility — Lenexa Hills Elementary is the new neighborhood school for the fast growing housing developments in the area. And it’s already seeing enrollment come in faster than expected.

Principal Mike Brewer said he’s adding sections to kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade after a number of students signed up for classes in the days before the school year started. The building has plenty of room to accommodate the extra sections, though: The facility is built for up to around 500 students, and total enrollment so far this year is about 200.

We got a look inside the new building Wednesday.

The entry to the school is open, with the foyer leading directly into the cafeteria area:

The brightly lit new gym features wood floors:

And a media center on the ground floor houses books and digital research resources:

Classes for pre-K through 1st grade are on the ground level. Classes for 2nd through 6th grades are on the second floor. Unlike older schools that have traditional hallways, the district new schools feature open areas for students to move around and are punctuated with a number of seating areas designed for students and instructors to work together on projects:

The upper floor also feature room for a maker space, where students will have access to equipment and supplies for STEM-focused curriculum:

Brewer said his focus for set up of the school is to help students “find their own voice,” and that they’re including opportunities for students to display work — including allowing 6th graders to program a video display board in the foyer — as part of that effort.

In anticipation of the opening of Lenexa Hills this fall, the board of education in June 2017 approved a series of elementary school boundary changes. Students who had previously been in the Sunflower and Broken Arrow Elementary feeder areas were shifted into the new Lenexa Hills feeder footprint.

The school only has one sixth grade section this year, as students who were fifth graders at Sunflower or Broken Arrow last year had the option to stay at those schools for their final year of elementary school.