Horsethief Canyon: Luiseño School’s Transformation Nearly Complete

Luiseño School in the Lake Elsinore District has nearly completed a change to an elementary/middle school.

Photo Caption: Seventh-graders study in a new science classroom at Luiseno School. The school,located in the Horsethief Canyon community north of Lake Elsinore, has been converted to a K-8 campus.

The Lake Elsinore Unified School District’s Luiseño School isn’t an elementary anymore.

Luiseño, in the Horsethief Canyon community north of Lake Elsinore, has been transformed from a K-5 elementary school to a K-8 campus, complete with new classrooms, a gym and lunch areas befitting middle school students.

“It’s been such a lift,” Principal Susan Jones said of the school’s transformation. “The whole campus feels like a new campus.”

Construction crews are finishing up the $15 million renovation as the school’s first class of eighth-graders begins its fourth week of the 2012-13 school year.

Photo Caption: Luiseno School in the Horsethief Canyon community north of Lake Elsinore, was recently renovated so the campus could serve students in grades K-8. Renovations included a new gymnasium, at rear, and new play areas for all students.

The work is nearly complete, but for a few small details, said Greg Bowers, assistant superintendent for facilities and operations.

Luiseño, which first opened in 1991, is one of two schools — the other is Lakeland Village School — in Lake Elsinore Unified to become K-8 campuses in the past couple of years.

The school board approved the configuration change in 2010, but agreed that Luiseño should “grow into” its new campus by adding one grade each year.

That also gave the school district time to complete the needed expansion, which included new classrooms, a gymnasium an outdoor amphitheater and new play equipment.

The project was paid for using money restricted for facilities projects that cannot be used for day-to-day school operations, Bowers said.

The expanded campus now has room for about 1,000 students. Enrollment is at 950 this year, and the middle school grades, 6 through 8, are at capacity, Jones said.

One of the nice things about the new facilities, Jones said, is that all of the school’s students can enjoy them.

Teachers from all grades will have access to one of the new science labs, the art room and the gymnasium, giving students and teachers more options for class lessons, she said.

The addition also gives the school enough space to provide a middle school experience for those students, she said. The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have electives, including band and computer classes and a student government. They also have middle school lunch choices and a separate eating area with round tables, rather than the long picnic-style tables used by the elementary kids.

Sixth-grader Emily Nuñez, 11, who has attended Luiseño since kindergarten, said she’s happy with the improvements and glad she’s still attending school there, instead of moving on to a traditional middle school.

“I like the new gym. It’s a nice place to do PE,” she said. “I’m liking middle school so far.”

Seventh-grader Micole Marietta, 12, said having the new space makes it feel more like she’s in middle school.

“Now we have a whole building to ourselves,” she said. “We get to be the student leaders for the elementary school.”

Photo Caption: Students in grades 6-8 now have their own lunch area at Luiseno School, which has been converted from an elementary to a K-8 campus.