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Center Grove Elementary to get new class space amid upgrades

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About 130 new students enrolled at Center Grove schools this year, the most growth the school district has had in five years, and now one elementary is getting new classrooms to prepare for future growth.

The school district will spend more than $1 million to add four classrooms to Center Grove Elementary School, which should be enough room for about 100 more students. The new classrooms are part of a larger construction project that includes moving the elementary school’s gymnasium to the exterior of the building and creating a larger lunch room.

School officials had considered adding more classrooms when they started planning the project but weren’t sure they would have enough money and moving the gymnasiums and renovating the cafeterias at Center Grove Elementary and North Grove Elementary schools were the top priorities.

After bids for the projects came in less than expected, the school district had enough to add the four new classrooms at Center Grove Elementary, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

School districts don’t have to ask voters to approve elementary school construction projects that cost $10 million or less.

“So with the lower cost savings we’re able to move ahead with what we probably would have done two or three years out,” Arkanoff said. “We’re able to do it now.”

Center Grove could add more students over the next several years as families with small children move into existing homes, and as new ones are built within the school district, Arkanoff said. While school officials can’t know for sure where growth will happen, they have seen new homes and neighborhoods being built around the central and southern parts of the school district, around the intersection of Smith Valley Road and State Road 135.

Center Grove Elementary is in the center of the school district, so adding the four classrooms there will ensure there’s room for more students who move into the area, Arkanoff said.

The school district also is moving a preschool for special education students out of Pleasant Grove Elementary and into the Professional Resource Center, which will open up two more classrooms at Pleasant Grove Elementary, Arkanoff and assistant superintendent Bill Long said.

New classrooms can’t be added to North Grove Elementary, where work also is being done on the gymnasium and cafeteria, because the building is hemmed in by development, Arkanoff said.

Center Grove also is preparing to start a $20 million renovation project at Center Grove High School, which will include widening hallways and expanding the school district’s media center. And as more students take online courses and classes at the Central Nine Career Center, classrooms at the high school should have plenty of room for students, Arkanoff said.

Right now Center Grove’s two middle schools each have room for about 200 more students, or a total of about 400 more, although both Center Grove Middle School Central and Center Grove Middle School North have some classes with more than 30 students. That makes it difficult for teachers to provide individual help and extra instruction to students who are in danger of falling behind.

The large class sizes at the two middle schools aren’t because of a shortage of space, but because the funding formula Indiana uses to pay for schools doesn’t provide enough for the school district to hire more teachers, Arkanoff said. Schools receive money that pays for employee salaries and benefits based on the number of students they have enrolled.

Center Grove did add about 30 new positions at the start of the school year, including a kindergarten and a middle school world languages teacher. The school district also hired four middle school aides, several elementary school aides and eight positions outside of the classroom.

Center Grove Middle School Central teachers had asked their principal to encourage administrators to hire more teachers. Arkanoff said earlier this year that adding a teacher at the middle school would complicate the teams of three to four teachers who teach the same sets of students throughout the school year. United Teachers Association of Center Grove president Katie Hoffmann disagreed, and said that at Center Grove Middle School Central could convert a three-person team to a four-person team.

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