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Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant students head back to school

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Twenty minutes before the doors of Pleasant Crossing Elementary School opened for the first day of school, students were lined up outside, eager to get inside and start their day.

Raymond Estanovich was eager to start the second grade, even though he would be starting all over at a new school. His sister, Katelyn Estanovich, was starting her first day of kindergarten.

The children used to attend school in Perry Township before their mother, Ruby Estanovich, moved the family to Greenwood.

Leading up to the first day of school, Estanovich explained to her daughter how Pleasant Crossing would be different from what she was used to when she attended preschool for about three hours each day.

Tuesday was the first day back to school for both Clark-Pleasant and Center Grove schools, the county’s two largest school districts. About 13,900 students returned to class in the two districts, and over the next week Johnson County’s remaining 11,100 students will return to school until everyone is back in class by Aug. 6.

Alexis Reel was ready to start second grade the moment she completed first grade last spring at Pleasant Crossing. She gets excited remembering when she learned about bats, butterflies and presidents. On Tuesday morning, she was ready to continue learning about the presidents from her new second-grade teacher and make new friends.

“I love it. It’s a great school,” Alexis Reel said.

Her mother, Shannon Reel, works the night shift in a factory and slept about 45 minutes before waking up to take her daughter to school. Shannon Reel wanted to make sure her daughter knew her teacher’s name and also wanted to double-check what bus her daughter will take to and from school each day.

Students began lining up outside local schools before the buildings opened, with parents getting one more picture and children eager to get inside.

Raymond Estanovich didn’t require as much preparation as his little sister before his first day this year. He was ready to begin the school year as quickly as possible.

“I just want to go in and start,” he said.

The Estanovich family joined other new families enrolling in growing school districts across the county. Clark-Pleasant, for example, is expecting 1,200 more students over the next decade, mostly at the intermediate, middle and high schools, projections have shown.

How many more students schools will have is a top question for the county’s largest school districts. More than 100 new students joined Clark-Pleasant schools two years ago, and both school districts had more than 100 new students last year.

Most local school districts had more students arriving for school each year until 2008, when the housing market crashed and Franklin was flooded. Since then Edinburgh, Franklin, Greenwood and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools have either lost students or had steady enrollments. But in the past two years, more students have been arriving at Clark-Pleasant and Center Grove schools, and officials have discussed how to handle the growth.

Last year, as Clark Elementary School neared capacity, about 100 students were moved to Pleasant Crossing. Handling that growth, which is expected to continue, is just a part of what school officials have to do to prepare for the new school year.

At Center Grove, nearly 1,300 elementary students returned to buildings that are now under construction. Center Grove and North Grove Elementary schools are both having their gymnasiums moved to the exterior of their buildings and having their cafeterias renovated. At Center Grove Elementary School, four classrooms are being added to the building. And this fall, work will begin to expand the high school’s media center and add a tech bar.

New classrooms weren’t originally part of the plan when Center Grove announced the construction project for the two elementary schools in early 2013. But the school district decided to add the classrooms after bids for the renovations were less than expected.

While Center Grove hasn’t added as many students as quickly as Clark-Pleasant, the school district added more than 100 students last school year, and school officials believe there could be additional growth as more families with children move into the school district. As that happens, school officials must decide whether to hire additional teachers and how they will make room for the new students without letting classroom sizes increase too much.

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