Inside Olathe's new high school, set to open in 2017

Olathe West set to open in 2017

OLATHE, Kan. - Olathe's new high school is nearing completion. The campus represents a new age of education.

"Project-based learning was really driven by industry and the corporate world. We're finding that traditional ways of educating students have changed." said Jay Novacek, the new principal of Olathe West High School.

Novacek took 41 Action News anchor Christa Dubill on a behind-the-scenes tour of the construction and explained how the building will be different than traditional high schools.

"It's set up in communities. There are four different communities in this building: ninth grade community, 10th grade, 11th and 12th," he said. Each grade will have its own area in the school.

Olathe West communities diagram (Photo: Olathe Schools)

With 2,000 students expected to attend, communities will give the look and feel of a smaller school.

Grade levels will be broken into communities of 500 students. Then those communities will be broken down into "neighborhoods" to give a feel of an even smaller network any one student is with on any given day.

"The assistant principals are going to be dispersed throughout the building as opposed to one central office," said Novacek.

The school is set up like a college campus. 

Olathe West Learning Commons rendering (Photo: Olathe Schools)

 

"Our cafeteria runs directly into our commons which also runs directly into our library - it's called a learning commons. It's set up almost like a student union at a college," he said.

Every spot in the building is flexible space. Perhaps one of the best examples of flexible space is the new learning stairs. Wide, deep stairs used more like bleachers than traditional stair. 

Olathe West Learning Stairs rendering. (Photo: Olathe Schools)

The classrooms are different, too. They have "blended classrooms."

No doors. Different kinds of seating. No traditional desks. Multiple open-space areas and conference rooms.

Olathe West Blended Lab rendering. (Photo: Olathe Schools)

And this building is being built to house two 21st Century Academies.

"Public safety which will focus on police and fire, and we also have green technology which will focus on biodiesel wind energy and solar," said Novacek.

Public safety will train students for careers in police or fire. Classes will be catered to those careers.

"Every student needs to take photography. Well, they're going to take crime scene photography. They can set up scenes and as far as taking a foreign language, if you're in this program, you're going to take Spanish for first responders. So it's how to communicate if you're a police officer or a fire fighter or first repsonder," said Novacek.

The Green Technology Academy will also offer specialized training for students enrolled in the academy, but also knowledge for all students.

"Our building is being set up so kids can actually monitor the energy being used," said Novacek. "They'll have live, up-to-date how much water we've used today. How much electricity and gas."

Olathe West is a 21st century school with a tremendous amount of thought going into every detail.

Olathe West logos (Photo: Olathe Schools)

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Christa Dubill can be reached at Christa.Dubill@kshb.com.

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