Central High Elementary School is growing in more ways than one.

Since last year, the school has increased by about 30 elementary students, which made the overcrowded classrooms even more so. To counter this problem, the school added a new wing.

Principal LeAnn Johnson said, “We had a lot of growth. And we were using whatever rooms we had available to have class.

“We had to add classrooms to the school. We’re at maximum capacity right now.”

Superintendent Bennie Newton said increasing the classrooms was important because it allowed the school to effectively control its classroom sizes.

“These six classes allowed us to go from being overcrowded to being full,” Newton said.

“With the anticipated growth from the BRAC realignment, the local steering committee has met twice this year to start setting goals. The committee and the school board has already put in motion more expansion,” he said.

Finding room for the 287 students might be significant, but Johnson said the addition also allowed the school to do some reorganizing, which is important to student growth and development.

In the elementary school, Johnson is responsible for students ranging from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Before the new wing was added, the sixth- through eighth-grade students shared the hallways with their high school counterparts.

With the addition, Johnson said the kindergarten through fifth-grade students have their own building. A hallway that had belonged to third- to fifth-graders became the middle school hallway, she said.

“The middle school will help transition the students into high school,” she said.

“I think we are seeing more students developing leadership. I hear a lot of middle school students talking about what they want to be.

“Goals are being met by the discussions students are having.”

She said that by having preschool, elementary and middle schools where they are now, there is more effective interfacing between the elementary classes and the other buildings.

“They can really communicate with each other,” Johnson said.

The school also increased the number of sections for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth grade.

“First grade will probably have to be split next year,” Johnson said.

By doubling the sections of those classes, the school is able to meet its goals, she said.

Some of the classes had about 30 students, which was one problem taken care of by the split.

“I really feel like it has reduced discipline problems,” Johnson said. “It allows the teachers to be more effective because of the smaller class sizes.

“It will probably improve tests, which are good already.”

She said the students seemed to be happy with the change, although there were drawbacks, including separating the students from their friends.

“They really like it,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of an adjustment.

“They enjoy having less students in the room at the time.”

Students aren’t the only ones happy with the additional class section, she said. The 20 teachers and six assistants are also finding the benefits of having someone else with whom to share thoughts.

“They really enjoy having a partner to work with,” Johnson said. “It gives them someone to bounce ideas off of.

“I think it makes better teaching to have someone you can work with.”

Having smaller classes doesn’t diminish the family atmosphere the school has, Johnson said.

“The students know each other. Their parents went here. They care about each other,” she said.

“Many teachers are from the community. So they care about the students on more than a professional level.”

She said the teachers helped the students pursue success in education and in their lives.

“I think all my teachers want students to grow up to be productive adults,” she said.

“They want them to learn how to make good quality choices, confident choices, and most of all, find out what they are good at and be proud.”

With the school’s expansion, Johnson has help to ensure the welfare of the students, she said.

“It’s very important to me that the children have a good education, that there’s safety in the school, and that the children feel at home here,” she said.

“I want them to stay here.”

But even with the ever-growing building size and student numbers, Johnson said she still loves her job.

“I really enjoy these kids,” she said. “I love the ‘Good morning, Mrs. Johnson.’ I love the light in their eyes.

“When I was in the classroom, I felt like I had 20 kids. Now, I feel like have 300.”

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