Students and staff of Johnson relocate to Highlands campus

Multiple trailers were moved into the new “Johnson Valley” before spring break.

Steve Lang

Multiple trailers were moved into the new “Johnson Valley” before spring break.

When students got back from spring break, there was a new addition to the Highlands Campus. The well-known “Death Valley”, became “Johnson Valley.” With the new name came trailers, 405 students, and 56 faculty members.

Robert D. Johnson Elementary holds many memories but needed to be rebuilt. The school has been educating students since 1923. Over the years, Johnson has become run down and completely outdated. The new school will have a new and modern design, with updated features to support the future learning of the students attending.

Ashley Dikeos, principal at Johnson, explains how this was a process that a lot of thought went into.

“This was a process with many involved brainstorming ideas of where our entire population could go together. We had to keep in mind safety procedures for severe weather, bathrooms, and space for all teachers/students. As a group of district administrators and city officials, we decided ‘Johnson Valley’ was the best place “

The renovation will take around a year and a half to complete, causing the design to be finished in 2020. Johnson students will be having classes down in the “Johnson Valley” for the rest of this year, and all next school year. With this came accommodations such as different start times to both the High school and the Middle school, in addition to all the elementary schools to help alleviate traffic.

The faculty learned they were relocating at a staff meeting sometime in January. They were given until spring break to gather all their things out of their classrooms. Once doors had closed for spring break, the teachers did not have an opportunity to get back into the school. However, teachers couldn’t pack all materials weeks in advance. Many items were needed to be used to help teach students, so the teachers only had a short amount of time to pack the remaining items, and they still managed to get it done.

Faculty and staff were very stressed about moving all of their supplies and students into the trailers, but the tension resolved once they took a look around 5th-grade teacher Mrs. Huber quoted.

“Many would think it would be difficult to adapt quickly enough. This change was a difficult thing for everyone to adapt to, but all students from the district quickly got the hang of it.”  

First-grade teacher Stephanie Perkins believes her students are more excited about their new school than anything else.

“It has been easier than I thought it would be to move into Johnson Valley. My first-grade students have been beyond excited to see our new space, and they look at the whole transition as an adventure. When I am  surrounded by their enthusiasm, it makes it easy to just go with the flow and make things work.”

When the teachers learned they were moving, the question was what would the trailers be like and how would this affect their lessons. What they saw, pleasantly surprised them. They have spaces the size of classrooms, bathrooms, and water fountains. With this much room lesson plans were not affected at all.

Anne Snider, third-grade teacher says, “No, I thought it might but it really doesn’t. There are some new things that I kind of like, that I wasn’t doing before. It has brought a positive into it really well. The time change is remarkably not what I expected, go by so fast. Afternoons go by so fast now, that I can’t even believe it’s almost 2:30. I’d say more positives than negatives. The cottages are bigger than I thought, we have our own bathroom and drinking fountains.”

With the move come changed duties for some staff members. Whitney Mckay, counselor, duties have changed since the move to help keep the school safe and running smoothly.

I would say the biggest change in my job (and this is true for most of us) is that I have extra duties now. In the morning I greet the bus riders, and in the afternoon I make sure the bus riders get on the correct bus.  I also am helping out during 4th and 5th-grade lunch in the cafeteria.”

Overall, the school change has unexpectedly brought in more positives than negatives, along with more opportunities. Students and staff have adapted quickly, making it possible for a productive end of the year, and next school year.