JCD expands to meet needs of middle school students

JCD Superintendent Bill Narwold shows the plans for the new renovation/addition to the school that will boast a wing for the junior high students.

Wanda English Burnett

The $6.3M renovation/addition project at Jac-Cen-Del will not only give the present students more space, it will allow for a wing designated for a middle school that includes sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Superintendent Bill Narwold noted the overall goal is for the middle school students to have their own identity leading to a better educational concept for them all the way around. “They learn differently...this plan is for their distinct education, social and physical needs,” he said at a press conference last Friday.

The middle school will operate on a different bell schedule than the high school, meaning the students won’t clash in the hallways. The way the schedule is organized will not only give the student their own identity, but will provide for smaller classrooms.

The sixth graders will keep the same schedule as they have now - giving them continuity in learning style. They will have some changes such as lockers and the atmosphere of a high school campus preparing them for the years ahead. Administrators have researched the idea of having the sixth, seventh and eighth grades together and believe it will work better than the present set-up of K-6 and then 7-12.

Elementary school principal Leanna Phillippe said this will provide a very safe transition for the sixth graders who will have the same teachers. It will continue with project based learning, a theme that will take them through their high school years. High school principal Johnny Budd noted they are doing project based learning now at the high school with Project Lead the Way.

While the high school principal is proud of the fact his students score at or above average on tests, he has a deeper concern. The drop out rate is alarming. “We want to focus on students in the middle grades and get them off to a good start,” he noted. Supt. Narwold noted that the drop out rates can be traced back to the middle school age.

The addition at the high school will not only provide a separate wing for the middle school but additional much needed science rooms. The present ones date back to the 1960s. Also, students will have another advantage with the new music and multi purpose fitness room.

Now when there is an activity that includes large groups, it has to take place in the gym. That means the students who might be scheduled for a physical education class simply don’t get to have it for that day.

Also, the cafeteria has been expanded so students can actually sit down and eat in it. The design includes an outdoor food court also.

The project includes much needed new lockers and exterior doors at the high school as well as a new HVAC system for the elementary.

The vacated space left by the exodus of the sixth graders at the elementary will be put to good use. Principal Phillippe explained the additional space will allow for more project based learning where the projects can actually be left and not taken down after each class period. She noted that this summer, she, along with 30 other educators will be taking part in a training that will bring the present curriculum to life. Phillippe is an innovative thinker who is excited about having the space to expand learning capacity at the elementary. She knows the importance of students getting the basics before moving on to higher grades.

Both principals agreed they will continue to interact in the best interest of the education of students at Jac-Cen-Del. “We’ll even be able to use the high school science rooms,” Phillippe noted.
The number one priority of the administration is to provide the best possible education for the 900 students they serve. Realigning the students to create a middle school is a major focus of this project that has many more advantages for all the students.

Bruns-Gutzwiller of Batesville is the general contractor for the project which should be completed no later than the second semester of next year.

Supt. Narwold says they will begin orientation for students and staff yet this year to provide a smoother transition that could take place as early as the first semester of next year. “We would like to start at the beginning of the (2011-2012) school year,” Narwold concluded. He knows that is dependent on weather and other variables.

Narwold said they will monitor a number of measures to mark the success of the project. Among those will be attendance, discipline, extra-curricular participation, drop out and graduates rates, along with ISTEP scores.

They will also utilize student and parental input through the form of surveys.