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Despite appearance, schools will be ready for class Aug. 11

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Back to School in Bullitt County

By Stephen Thomas

SHEPHERDSVILLE - The staff members at the Bullitt County Public Schools Central Office probably keep hard hats at their desks.

That’s because a large number of local schools are currently under construction.

Summer work included two new school facilities (along with two demolitions), major renovations at four schools, updated technology, lighting and air conditioning units at many schools, and one more brand new facility in the plans.

Long-time Bullitt schools Overdale and Roby Elementary each have more than 50 years of tradition to transport into their brand new buildings. Though total work may not be completed as of opening day, both are scheduled to open on time Aug. 11.

OVERDALE ELEMENTARY

A building with faulty electricity, leaking ceilings and cracked walls wasn’t as much a nuisance for the Overdale community as it was extra character.

Those Overdale families will attempt to keep their humble digs in mind as they explore the vast halls and classrooms of the new Overdale Elementary.

Principal Pam Robertson said an open house prior to the first day had to be cancelled because no one would yet be allowed in the building. She said the school faculty and staff still planned to report Monday, Aug. 10, the day before opening day.

Robertson and other Overdale administrators have worked out of Room 14-A at Brooks Elementary during the summer.

Despite construction headaches and issues, Robertson promised that it was worth it for the building Overdale was receiving.

“It is absolutely gorgeous,” she said. “The colors are different in each hall, and on the floors and the rafters. The media center will be gigantic.”

Other features Robertson mentioned included two computer labs along with new rooms specifically for science, art, music and physical education.

An elevated stage area was placed in between the gymnasium and the cafeteria. Robertson said the stage could be used facing either direction depending on audience size.

According to Robertson the gym may not ready until around Labor Day.

Along with new rooms comes advanced technology. Robertson said an active board and a projector were included in every classroom.

The library features a broadcast studio where students can prepare their morning news reports.

Robertson and the Overdale administrative staff will work out of a larger front office near the school’s main lobby.

“The administrative offices are huge,” she said. “The new Family Resource Center office is the biggest.”

Robertson assured students would be safe in the new Overdale despite ongoing construction work. She said the biggest issue on the first day was getting students into the building.

Overdale walkers and car riders should enter the new school at the side entrance along Brookley Drive. Buses will drop off and pick up in the same location, with students following a path to the school entrance.

ROBY ELEMENTARY

Principal Gayle Korfhage couldn’t be more excited about the new school her students will attend this year.

Although it was tough saying goodbye to a building with over 50 years of history, Korfhage is ready for Roby’s next chapter, embodying the history while embracing technology and a better learning environment.

Construction is scheduled for completion by opening day. Korfhage said workers were putting in the finishing touches but outside features such as the parking lot and playground would not yet be ready.

A change that students will immediately notice is grade levels split into pods by color. Korfhage said students should be able to find their assigned areas easily by locating their assigned pod’s color.

Each pod area includes new technology like ActivBoards and document cameras, necessities at the old school but very scarce. Korfhage said many of the old classrooms didn’t have electrical wiring to support multiple computers and other technologies.

“I am really excited about this,” she said.

One of the most exciting areas for Roby students will be the gymnasium. There was no gym at the old school, with physical education classes held outside or in the lunchroom. Korfhage said some PE classes were on the school’s stage.

Other new facility highlights include an expanded media center, brighter cafeteria and a safer office. Korfhage said the new office space allowed parent and visitor sign-ins while keeping students secure. Administrators and office staff will enjoy a much larger working area.

“We were so used to being on top of each other,” she said.

According to Korfhage the new school will have about the same number of classrooms as the old Roby. She said new technologies, brighter rooms and larger spaces would facilitate student learning for years to come, she said.

NICHOLS ELEMENTARY

In a small community such as Nichols word can spread quickly.

The anxiety of Nichols Elementary parents was addressed by principal Donna LaFountain, who promised all would go well with a little patience and understanding from everyone.

On a good note, LaFountain said construction at the school was ahead of schedule and would be completed quicker than expected.

However, the advanced pace of the work has led to some opening day issues, including lunch.

LaFountain reminded that students would need to “brown-bag” their lunches for at least the first few months of the school year. She said parents were alerted of this situation as far in advance as possible.

Nichols students are also encouraged to ride buses to school whenever possible to alleviate traffic congestion in the parking lot. Space would be limited in the lot during the construction process.

According to LaFountain construction crews were working overtime to ensure that enough classrooms would be ready for opening day, including library access.

“It’s a big mess at the moment but will be done quicker,” she said. “Basically all that’s left is the outside bricks.”

The updated Nichols school will include larger rooms with some walls removed, new air conditioning and heat, new lighting, new tiles, new seating and new bathrooms.

Also added is new technology. LaFountain said Nichols would now be as high tech as the new school facilities.

“We’re very pro-active in the updates,” she said. “The technology will also be included in future classrooms.”

On opening day LaFountain said students would likely enter school through the back library doors.

LaFountain assured parents that all students would be safe within the school during the upgrades.

“Please know that we are doing everything we can to ensure that the quality of your child’s education and safety will not be lessened by the ongoing construction,” she said. “Please be patient. It’ll take a lot of flexibility on everybody’s part.”

LEBANON JUNCTION ELEMENTARY

Construction is far from over at Lebanon Junction Elementary. However, principal Staci Goedde said students will enjoy some of the more major renovations this year.

The school is undergoing a complete renovation of its gymnasium, cafeteria and kitchen area. The projects are scheduled for completion several weeks after school begins, though other work will continue throughout the year.

Goedde said the school was adding a new sprinkler and fire alarm system as well as classroom renovations and a new office area.

Work is currently underway on the first section of classrooms. Renovations on other classrooms and work on the new office area will continue through next summer. Two new restrooms have been installed.

Goedde said children would notice brighter, better-equipped classrooms while the office area will better accommodate school administrators.

The school’s open house will be hosted following completion of the gym, cafeteria and kitchen area. Goedde estimated that would be sometime in September.

“It’s going to be great,” she added.

Because of construction, parents need to contact the school to find out teacher assignments. Class lists will be posted in the library window.

CEDAR GROVE ELEMENTARY

The construction at Cedar Grove will effect students and parents before school even begins.

Principal Andy Moberly said the school scheduled its annual meet and greet nights at Bernheim Middle School.

“(Bernheim principal Bob) Bright has been gracious enough to allow us to have these nights on August 4th and 5th since we are unable to host open houses at our school,” Moberly said.

Moberly plans to discuss the construction issues with all parents during the meet and greets. Students from 3rd through 5th grades will show up on Aug. 4 and K-2 students Aug. 5. Both events begin at 6 p.m.

Like Nichols and Lebanon Junction, the Cedar Grove facility will receive new rooms, new technology, new lighting and new air conditioning.

Also similar to Nichols, Moberly requested that as many Cedar Grove students as possible ride buses to school during the first couple months.

“Bus riding cuts down on congestion,” he said. “With the construction we’re limited in parking spaces. We won’t have nearly as many available.”

HEBRON MIDDLE

Hebron principal John Barbagallo said younger people were more flexible than adults as far as radical changes.

With this in mind, the Hebron Faculty and staff will work to keep their two-year ongoing construction situation as fun as possible.

Hebron will open this year with a vacant hallway. The 7th graders will be moved around a little at a time pending where new construction work will be taking place.

“Basically we’ll have to do the best we can with the space available,” Barbagallo said.

The school gymnasium will be out of commission for the entire year. Barbagallo said physical education activities will take place outdoors.

Sporting events will be hosted at neighboring North Bullitt High School, with practices held at Freedom Elementary.

During the year Hebron students will eat lunch at various times in the North Bullitt cafeteria.

“It’s great that we have a school next door that we can work with,” said Barbagallo. “We will eat lunch at North Bullitt in the second semester between 12:15 and 1. By 12:30 we’ll have the whole cafeteria filled with Hebron kids.”

By the end of the first year Barbagallo said Hebron should have a new band room, art room, computer lab, new bathroom areas and two new halls, one for 6th grade and the other for 7th.

The second year will focus on a new 8th grade hall and completion of the gymnasium updates. The school library and administrative offices will also be updated.

Because of the construction, a slight alteration to the Hebron drop-off and pick-up will be implemented. Barbagallo said parents will drop-off and pick-up at basically the same location, though students will enter the school through the cafeteria rather than the gym.

Barbagallo assured everyone that two years of headache would be worth it for the many renovations.

“It’s gonna be noisy,” he said. “There will be various smells and odors in the air, some dust, the air conditioning might not work at all times, but it’ll be safe.”