Choctaw-Nicoma Park students start year in updated schools

The Choctaw-Nicoma Park School District opened two new schools Tuesday. Students returned to upgrades in every school in the district.
BY TRICIA PEMBERTON Published: August 24, 2011

— Choctaw Middle School Principal JeanAnn Gaona is in love with her new school.

“You can literally walk into the building and just feel relaxed,” she said Tuesday, the first day of school in the Choctaw-Nicoma Park School District.

Gaona said the original middle school was built in the 1930s and had additions built through the 1980s.

“And it looked like that,” she said.

While visiting classrooms Tuesday, Gaona said she heard comments such as, “It's so big; it's so pretty,” and her personal favorite, “It smells so good.”

Gaona said the architect listened to teachers and considered the needs of staff and students when designing the building. All are pleased with the outcome, she said.

She said she wanted a lot of light and areas that bring the outdoors in.

“We put native sandstone throughout the building,” she said. “In the commons area there are walls of glass. There is so much natural light, not just florescent. It doesn't look institutionalized.”

Gaona said the middle school concept is to make each student feel like they belong to a small group, a school within a school, almost. She said the new building enhances that concept.

“It's 110,000 square feet, but they're not going to feel like they're lost in some mall,” she said.

Other openings

Choctaw Middle School is one of two new schools in the district this school year. Nicoma Park Elementary School also was rebuilt and opened to students Tuesday.

“It's a gorgeous new building,” school district Superintendent Jim McCharen said.

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To see a video interview with Choctaw Middle School Principal JeanAnn Gaona and a photo gallery, go to

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