A group of about 40 people gathered on a windy hilltop Sunday in northwest Omaha to officially break ground for a new jewel in the Elkhorn Public Schools’ crown.

Elkhorn North, when it opens in August 2020 near 180th Street and West Maple Road, will have capacity for 1,200 students with room to add space for 500 more. The district’s third high school is important, said Elkhorn Superintendent Bary Habrock, because the district is nearing 10,000 students and is projected to have 18,000 to 20,000 students in the years to come.

“Statewide or even regionally, it is not often that new high schools are built,” Habrock said. “In Elkhorn, we will have built two in 10 years.”

Habrock also unveiled a Wolves logo for Elkhorn North, a task he called “the fun part” of planning a new school. The school colors are black, silver and bright blue.

When Elkhorn North opens, the school district will have three high schools, five middle schools and 12 elementary schools, Habrock said. The school district is purchasing 54 acres near 186th and Ida Streets for about $2.7 million in order to build new middle and elementary schools.

Elkhorn South opened in 2010. Habrock said it probably won’t be long before a fourth high school will be needed.

“The growth of our school district is 600 to 700 new students that arrive each August that were not here the previous May,” Habrock said. “Today, I offer a heartfelt thank-you to our community for their partnership and ongoing support of our schools.”

Construction on Elkhorn North began this summer following the passage of a $149.6 million bond issue that will also cover new elementary and middle schools. The 40-acre high school campus is budgeted to cost $78.5 million.

The school’s amenities will be on par with the district’s two other high schools. Elkhorn North will have three computer labs, but they’ll be used primarily by art, journalism, industrial technology and business classes.

[Read more: Tech-heavy media centers, flexible spaces, fewer lockers: Plans for new Elkhorn, Omaha high schools taking shape]

The school will also have two gyms, one for practice and one for competition. Elkhorn North will have its own baseball, softball and soccer fields but will share the district’s stadium at Elkhorn High.

When talking to students and staff, school leaders and architects found a few things that could be tweaked. The school’s three-story classroom wing and science classrooms will be clustered together at one end of the building, and there will be room to add labs if needed.

Nationally, upward of 70 percent of high school students take a science class all four years. In Elkhorn, that percentage is about 95 percent, so the district wanted plenty of lab space.

About an hour after the high school groundbreaking, a dedication ceremony was held at the district’s newest elementary school. Blue Sage Elementary opened in August near 215th and F Streets.

Kevin Cole covers Omaha crime and public safety news. Follow him on Twitter @KevinColeOmaha. Phone: 402-444-1272.

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