MOUNTAIN GREEN -- For students attending Mountain Green Elementary, the new school means no long bus rides.
"It is a great addition for the community, to live where they go to school," said Principal Tom McFarland, who has lived in Mountain Green for 11 years.
Mountain Green is about 10 miles southeast of where the Morgan Elementary School, Morgan Middle School and Morgan High campuses join in the center of Morgan city.
For decades, all schoolchildren in the district attended school in the same geographic area.
When Mountain Green Elementary opened in 2008, hundreds of students broke away.
"The change has gone smoothly, but it is a challenge not to be in a central location," said McFarland, who left his post as Morgan Middle School principal to be the first principal of Mountain Green Elementary.
One of the biggest challenges was the drawing of boundaries for the two elementary schools in the district. However, the boundaries were set before the new school was built.
"I was hesitant at first," said school librarian Chris Coffman, "but it was nice to see the district so committed to getting the school up and running."
"We've had to learn to come together," said third-grade teacher Pam Tolley. "It has taken a few years, but we're now feeling united as a school."
In a community almost devoid of public meeting places, parents were quick to embrace the new facility, McFarland said. Because it is closer to home, parents have been quick to volunteer, something McFarland hopes remains a tradition.
A private day care leases space in the school, and 4-H and after-school programs make use of extra classroom space.
The gym is used as often as four times each week by community entities, such as homeowners associations, sports teams and church groups. Public meetings are also sometimes held there.
"It is nice to have a big enough space to accommodate sizeable groups," McFarland said.
It's also nice to have stunning views from the new school's campus, he said, adding he has seen moose, deer and eagles on school grounds.
"We have a view very few schools have. The kids get to see the countryside and have an open feeling."
Teachers, students and staff all seem to enjoy the layout of their new school. Teachers had a lot of say in the school's design.
"The building itself is unique," McFarland said. "It keeps kids separated in their own areas, or pods. It makes it a quiet atmosphere. The building is designed for teaching. It is rewarding seeing the teachers have what they need."
Windows, doors and walls in the pods bear the colors and symbols of the four seasons.
Students also like the new school.
Beth Pobanz said she appreciates the separate pods so kindergartners don't intermingle with older students, plus she likes the high ceiling of the gym.
Gina Tia said she likes having two computer labs and automatic sinks.
Emily Carrigan, who attended Morgan Elementary before the boundaries were adjusted, said: "It was a good change."
Mountain Green Elementary School
* LOCATION: 6064 N. Silver Leaf Drive
* COST: $12.7 million
* HISTORY: Built in 2008
* SIZE: 74,000 square feet
* STUDENT BODY: Estimated at 480
* STAFF: 24 teachers, 14 classified employees and one administrator
* TIDBIT: An underground geothermal system provides both heating and cooling. There is also a backup boiler and chiller in case the ground temperature does not meet demands.