Students, staff get settled in new facilities on first day of school in Cape

Friday, August 17, 2012
Franklin Elementary second grade students unpack their school supplies Thursday morning, Aug. 16, 2012 during their first day of school. (Laura Simon)

Mike Moore, a Franklin Elementary fourth-grader, will miss his old school. But not too much.

"I believe we are going to have even more and better fun here," Moore said Thursday, the first day of the 2012-2013 school year, while trailing a step behind a line of his classmates on a tour of the new "home" to more than 300 Cape Girardeau School District students.

Some students, like Hailey Brown, also a fourth-grader, pointed out features of the school besides the colorful hallways, sparkling cafeteria and modern library. Brown quietly noted the two-story school's elevator.

"That is a good thing," she whispered. "Now people who are handicapped won't struggle going up the stairs."

The 50,000-square-foot school has been built during the past two years using $10 million from taxpayer-approved bonds and is the costliest project among $40 million worth of districtwide improvements. The old Franklin Elementary, built in 1927, is being torn down just east of the new school. Of Cape Girardeau's five public elementary schools, Franklin was identified by the district as needing the most renovations when conditions of facilities were reviewed several years ago, which prompted officials to plan for completely new construction. Other schools have received various renovations and additions of space.

Central Junior High School students tour the new library Thursday morning, Aug. 16, 2012 on their first day of school. The new 8300 sq. foot library's design mimics that of an open book as you enter. The library also features a computer lab, classroom space and homework stations. (Laura Simon)

"We have a beautiful new home, and we are enjoying it," principal Rhonda Dunham said.

Space was at a minimum in the old school, and much of the building's aging infrastructure was literally crumbling.

The new school's technology and modern design is amazing students and staff alike. Classrooms feature Promethean Boards, a special type of interactive instruction whiteboard.

Debra Rau, a guidance counselor, sees the new school's setup as one that will promote learning. Everything, she said, even classroom chairs designed to make students sit up straighter, were chosen for the new school with a positive and successful learning environment in mind.

Not only in Franklin are Cape Girardeau students and staff appreciating technology upgrades and more space.

Cape Girardeau Central Junior High students were slipping into the school's new 8,300-square-foot library for a first glimpse Thursday, even though the library isn't officially open for use until after they go through an orientation next week. Libby Wilson, the school's librarian, had no problem with spending a few minutes showing the library's features, the planning for which included input from her and other school staff.

Wilson said the library's design allows for an entire class to use the room for research while space is still available for students to work individually -- a situation the junior high has never had before. A classroom space is on the library's north side and a large computer lab is on the other side. Light from large windows fills the modern-looking room. The feel of the library is brighter and more welcoming, Wilson said, much different from the feel in the former basement library of the junior high, which was dark and contained a hodgepodge of furniture.

Alan Bruns, the junior high's assistant principal, called the new library "the coolest room in the district."

Voter-approved bonds also helped pay for the library's construction. The total cost was $2.4 million total, although $1.3 million came from a public trust fund.

Another bond project opened for use Thursday. Central High School's 22-classroom addition is allowing many teachers to have a prep period they never had before because of shared classrooms, has larger classrooms for special education students after a decade in smaller spaces and allows student access to two new computer labs.

"Maybe it's not as glamorous as some of these other projects," principal Mike Cowan said. "But to us, this is a huge deal."

Central at one time in the past four years had as many as 54 traveling sections of classrooms because of a lack of classroom space. Teachers were transporting class materials on carts and had to hurry out of classrooms before another teacher in the next period hurried in, leaving little to no time for planning.

Business instructor Theresa Taylor finally has a classroom she doesn't have to give up, she said, and at the same time has enough space for all the computer equipment her classes need to use.

"I love this. I love it," she said Thursday. "Before there wasn't anywhere to talk privately to a student, or I was having to ask five of them to move so I could get down an aisle."

Taylor said teachers being able to use their prep periods effectively will also make a difference in how well they can plan lessons and deal with individual students' issues.

Cowan said the architects of the addition placed it on the school's southwest corner just far enough so that another addition could be added to the school's south side in the case future enrollment demands it.

The classroom addition cost $3.3 million.

Central High School will also open another new space in December upon completion of a performing arts center on the high school's east side.


Pertinent address:

215 N. Louisiana St. Cape Girardeau, MO

1000 Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

205 Caruthers Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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