The Inspire Elementary community celebrated its new building on the Park Street Campus with a grand opening ceremony last month. Families, students, staff and DPS personnel gathered to share in the joy of the occasion at Stapleton’s sixth and newest elementary school.
“It means everything to these little kids,” said DPS Board member, Jennifer Bacon, “And it means a lot to this side of town….This school seems to be one full of fun. Every single person that I’ve talked to that’s a part of the Inspire community really likes it.”
Inspire currently enrolls 182 students in kindergarten through grade 3, with more than half (94) of them in kindergarten. The school will add one grade at a time until it reaches a full K-5 enrollment. Currently, the school serves a diverse population that includes 40% of students who receive subsidized lunch, and they hope to maintain a strong level of socioeconomic diversity, according to Principal Marisol Enriquez.
Sam Miller, the director of the DPS construction department and architects from Humphries Poli, who designed the space, led a tour of the building, pointing out many features that make the new space uniquely suited for its occupant. Miller pointed out that there is natural light in every classroom and many areas of flexible, multipurpose space, like the large cafetorium that serves as a dining area, a meeting area, and a place to stage productions or events.
The large gymnasium at Inspire includes a regulation-sized basketball court—something that could serve older students as well as the current population of K-3 students. The building is environmentally friendly, with features like LED lighting throughout and solar tubes in the gym that let in natural light during the day, reducing electricity use.
Unique features of the building enhance the educational experience for its students. In the classrooms, “everything is designed for kids and to allow a lot of flexibility and movement,” said Enriquez. “We don’t want kids to sit in one place all day…we really offer a lot of opportunities for them to sit on the floor or lie on the carpet or stand or use rocking chairs.” The classrooms also bring the outside in, noted Enriquez, with lots of natural light from the windows and indoor plants.
“Wonder Wedges” are another favorite for Enriquez. These are triangular spaces at the end of each hallway. “In each block, the idea is that eventually…we want this building to be like a living museum, where student art becomes part of the building,” explained Enriquez. “In each of the Wonder Wedges, eventually we’ll have an indoor garden or sculptures or other art work.”
As for expansion plans at the Park Street Campus, “I would love to be a K-8. Right now I’m focused on building the elementary program to be as strong as it can be,” said Enriquez. “Having gone through the application process, I don’t know that we’re in a place that we can do both.”
For now, Enriquez is grateful to have a playground, since last year the fledgling school was sited at the Sandoval High School campus, which had no play facilities. And she is focused on building her program with the support of a strong school community.
“We’re off to such an amazing start,” said Enriquez. “The environment you create for students can be the third teacher.”