About 800 Clark-Pleasant students started their first day of school this week in a larger building, with teachers and students they weren’t familiar with.

Inside what is now the new Grassy Creek Elementary School, at Sheek and Worthsville roads, 25 teachers who previously taught at other Clark-Pleasant schools were teaching a new grade level or managing a different class size than before.

The elementary school is the newest for Clark-Pleasant and is housed in what used to be the school district’s intermediate school. The change was made by school officials to try to make room for continually growing enrollment, along with moving sixth grade into the middle school, closing one elementary school and moving more than 1,000 students to different schools within the district.

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Katie Kinman was teaching 30 sixth-graders at the intermediate school. But on Wednesday, 24 third-grade students filed into her classroom. Kinman didn’t have to switch rooms, but her classroom, along with her lesson plan, needed a complete makeover because of the change in grade levels, Kinman said.

Many of the 25 teachers moving to the new elementary from other Clark-Pleasant schools worked together all summer to prepare for the new school year, kindergarten teacher Morgan Benigni said. Benigni was a kindergarten teacher at Sawmill Woods Elementary school, which was closed because the building was in need of too much work, and is excited about the move to a new school where she can watch the students progress through more grades.

“Change is good. This school has an exciting atmosphere,” she said.

Wednesday was the culmination of almost two years of debate and discussion among school officials determining what to do about Clark-Pleasant’s current and projected growth in enrollment. One of the biggest changes was making the intermediate school, which had housed grades five and six, into an elementary school.

A playground is being installed and should be complete within the next three weeks, superintendent Patrick Spray said.

Clark-Pleasant schools typically open for parents and students in the days leading up to the new school year, but this summer school buildings were open more in the weeks leading up to the first day back, assistant superintendent Cameron Rains said.

“In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, there’s been a lot more parents coming in with their kids. More parents wanted to do that this year than before,” Rains said.

“Any time students move schools it presents challenges and parents understand that.”

Dozens of teachers also had to move schools, including from the now-closed Sawmill Woods to filling the added elementary grades at Grassy Creek.

Before those moves were made, administrators passed out a survey to teachers asking them which three schools they would like to work in and then tried to match each with their first choice, Rains said.

Once teachers had been assigned and the staff was finalized at the new Grassy Creek Elementary School, teachers from the same grade level worked together to help one another prepare, Kinman said. Teachers who switched grade levels also offered to work with staff members teaching their former grade level, giving any advice or help they could to make the transition easy, teachers said.

The moves were made easier with the collaboration among teachers, such as by helping each other prepare a new curriculum for their new grade level, Rains said.

“We supported our staff in the move, from teachers to maintenance crews — everyone did a great job getting things moved during the first few weeks of June,” Rains said.

“We put together new grade level teams, we had teachers new to their grade level working together for the first time, coming in over the summer to build a collaborative environment. This was a summer of digging in, rather than relaxing.”

At a glance

The first day of school for Johnson County districts

Greenwood schools: Today

Edinburgh schools: Monday

Center Grove schools: Tuesday

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools: Tuesday

Franklin schools: Aug. 10

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.