MT. VERNON – Teachers and students had their first real chance to try out the newly expanded and renovated Casey Middle School campus Tuesday as part of District 80’s first day of classes.
And for sixth grade language arts teacher Michele Harpole, the new addition at Casey has provided students with a greatly enhanced learning environment.
“We’ve had an awesome day,” said Harpole, a Team Six Gold instructor at Casey. “It’s been so nice having the new building. Everybody has their own lockers. I’ve never had enough lockers (before) for every child so that is great. … It’s a definite privilege.”
The $6 million Casey expansion/renovation, which has been ongoing for about a year, is nearly complete and the facility was ready for classes to begin Tuesday.
All that’s left to finish on the project are some cosmetic improvements, an asphalt driveway in the front, and covered walkways between the campus buildings, said Casey Middle School Principal Mary McGreer. The walkways should be done by the end of September.
“It’s so students can go from one building to another safely and securely,” McGreer said of the walkways.
The largest part of the expansion involved building a brand new, two-story addition for sixth grade students.
Previously, sixth graders attended classes at the Dr. Andy Hall Early Childhood Center, located behind Casey’s main building.
The students would then have to walk outside from the Andy Hall building to Casey to attend art and PE classes, assemblies, special programs, and other classes. Now all sixth grade classes are going to be at Casey.
“It provides enhanced safety and security because now our campus is combined,” McGreer said. “(Before), they were exposed to the elements, they had to cross the street, and we lost instructional minutes because the students had to travel.”
The new Casey addition also includes a semi-circle driveway leading up to the entrance, and an elevator. These features make the building very accessible to the handicapped, McGreer said.
“In the past, handicapped accessibility was a problem because it was an older facility,” McGreer said. “And now it will make it very accessible for anyone with disabilities, which was important for us.”
The renovated campus also includes a new administrative office where visitors are buzzed in. Furthermore, the Casey school has a new cafeteria that seats over 300 students and includes a hand-washing station.
Throughout the day Tuesday, students were taken on tours of the renovated campus. Assistant Superintendent Aletta Lawrence said the first day went very smoothly.
“Particularly, the families in the community have sort of accepted that some things haven’t quite been done yet, but they’re taking it in stride,” Lawrence said. “Overall, it’s going very well.”
McGreer said district staff have worked long hours to get the Casey campus ready for students.
“They have worked so hard to make this as nice as it can be for the students,” McGreer said. “We are very excited to have the students back.”
Parents picking up their children from Casey by vehicle should do so at the 18th Street and Casey Avenue entrances, or at the parking lot across from the overpass. They should not use the entrance off 19th Street, which is for buses.
Two open house events are scheduled at Casey in the near future. On Sept. 12, a “Meet Your Teacher” open house will be held at 6 p.m. for parents and students. A chili supper will take place just prior to this event at 5:30 p.m. and it is open to the general public.
Then, on Oct. 15, there will be a community open house at the Casey school where members of the public can take tours of the site. This event will take place at 5 p.m.