Beautiful new Bluff Elementary School is now open to students

The beautiful new Bluff Elementary School building has opened to students, replacing the old building that had served the Bluff community for more than 60 years.

The new school was completed last year but the building sat mostly empty for the 2020-21 school year because of the extended closure due to the COVID pandemic.

Located on a 27-acre lot at the site of the old rodeo grounds in Bluff, the building is a beauty!

It is the third new elementary school in the district that was designed by MHTN Architects in Salt Lake City, including the schools in Monument Valley and Monticello.

Brian Parker, architect for MHTN, said, “The design combines Native American culture and a pioneer aesthetic. The goal was to create a place where cultures come together.”

Heritage and culture permeates the design of the building.  The entry foyer is a focal point, with cultural symbols everywhere, including an entry from the east and the alignment of a rotunda above and a sand painting below to represent Mother Earth and Father Sky.  Students brought sand and dirt from their homes to include in the sand painting. 

Beautiful paintings by Bluff native Herbert Stash are in each corner of the entry foyer, featuring the direction, birds, and the sacred mountains.

The hallways are beautiful with a polished concrete blue “river” running down the halls and through the school.

The cultural heritage room is on the south end of the school. During a tour, I poked my head into the room to see a teacher with a group of students. 

She was reading them a book about the Navajo Code Talkers – apt for the day before Veterans Day.  Here it was, 75 years after the Code Talkers used Navajo words to describe military terms, and she was using the same Navajo words to teach the Navajo children their native language.

For instance, A-ye-shi means egg in Navajo and was used to mean bomb by the code talkers.  The students were learning about their language and culture through the story being told. Sixty of the 62 students at the school are Native American.

Other features in the building include the wonderful pod concept for the classrooms that was developed in the other new schools, a spacious library, and a small gym and lunchroom that features beautiful views of the rock formations that give Bluff its name.

Ron Nielson, the superintendent of the school district, started his education as a student at Bluff Elementary School. He is clearly pleased with the school.

“Students are going to benefit for years to come,” said Nielson.  “It is going to serve the community so well. The location is great, and the school couldn’t be more impressive in every way as far as its design, location, and facilities that will serve students.

Nielson added, “It tugs on your heart,” said Nielson.  “It is kind of fun to see the school you started in to be replaced with such an impressive facility.  It definitely needed to be replaced.”

Until the COVID situation is settled, no date has been set for the dedication and community celebration.  

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