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(Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune) Oakridge Elementary school students hold balloons that are decorations for Oakridge Elementary's 50th anniversary celebration at the school in Salt Lake City on May 17, 2013.
Oakridge Elementary celebrates 50 years
Arts in education » Students from across valley choose the school because of its creative learning environment.
First Published Jun 20 2013 10:59 am • Last Updated Jun 20 2013 10:59 am

For a school with a strong focus on the arts, art night was the perfect backdrop to celebrate a milestone at Oakridge Elementary.

"We’re celebrating 50 years of education and the arts," said music specialist Dianne Krehbiel. "We invited past teachers, principals, alumni, and we had a huge cake to celebrate the 50 years here." 

At a glance

About Oakridge Elementary

Built » 1962

Architect » Woods and Woods

General Contractor » Culp Construction Company

Cost » $659,591

Area » 7.97 acres

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The school and the community gathered for the May 17 celebration, which boasted plenty of student artwork and performances. Alumni and teachers also spoke about the history of the school. 

"It’s really a culmination of so many years of being dedicated to education, the arts and to our educators," said Jamileh Jameson, media aide and chairwoman of art night. "We had students performing, art galleries on display, every grade level works in 2-D and ceramic."

Oakridge, a Granite District school, sits on the foothills of Mt. Olympus, but its student population is not limited to the surrounding area. Principal Rosanne Newell said half of the school is on special permit to go there.

"Some come as far as Draper, some as far as Magna," Newell said. "They come because they want the arts, and they want the focus we have on education, and how we do it."

Although art is a key element, Newell said it doesn’t stand by itself.

"We believe in teaching the whole child," she said. "We just try to provide a lot of activities and things to do that help the children."

Newell is in her eighth year as principal at Oakridge. Right after graduating from the University of Utah, she taught third and fourth grade at Oakridge for five years.

"They made a chart out there with the principals on it, and I just happen to be the 10th one in 50 years," she said. "There’s lots of history."

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When she wandered the halls admiring the art galleries, Newell said she almost couldn’t distinguish among grade levels because they all did so well. Another thing that stands out to her about Oakridge students is the respect they show toward their peers.

"The thing that I learned is children here are the best audience I have seen, and we attribute that to the fact that they perform so much," Newell said. "They are so respectful when they watch the other kids perform."

Fifth-grader Emily Roberts, who has been attending Oakridge since kindergarten, played the xylophone in one of the night’s performances.

"I like the music program because our music teacher writes her own music," Emily said. 

Fourth-grader Ben Amundsen, who transferred to the school last year, sang in a group at the show, but the subject he enjoys most is science.

"We do some activities like soil layers, bedrocks, and filled two-liter bottles with rocks," he said. "At my old school, they never taught science that much."

Seth Roberts, who is in third grade, worked on a science/art piece that was among those on display.

"It’s a habitat," he said. "You make a clay animal and then behind it draw his habitat, where he lives and what he does."

Oakridge implemented the art show eight years ago to give kids the chance to feel like real artists by being able to use high-quality materials and exhibiting their works.

"The most amazing thing about what happens here is our kids start in kindergarten when they have no inhibition," Jameson said. "They just start and they go, and no one says to them ‘You’re not an artist.’ "

Long since 1963, when the school opened, Oakridge now uses several technologies with computers and tablets, but Jameson said it’s important to instill and inspire creativity.

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