Thursday, May 20, 2004

Ground broken for elementary

A.J. Jolly, Alexandria students merge in '05

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

CALIFORNIA - As school was in session here Wednesday for the 128 A.J. Jolly Elementary School students, ground was broken about 5 miles away for their new school in Alexandria.

But the new school is not just for them. When it opens in August 2005, it will also welcome 500-plus students from Alexandria Elementary. That means a big change for the Jolly kids, who are used to a small school where everybody knows everybody.

"The students here are very excited," said Jolly Principal Lynn Poe. "But they are afraid of being lost in the new school. I tell them that we won't let that happen."

Jolly was built in 1926. It sits along the Ohio River on the eastern edge of Campbell County in one of the most serene settings in the region. When the 155 students, faculty and administrative staff arrive each day, the population of California nearly triples.

The school is one of the top-performers on state accountability exams. Last year, Jolly scored the highest of all schools in the district and finished in the top 25 percent of the state's 745 elementary schools.

"It's a strong, small school and there's no teacher turnover here," said Poe. "You have an event here and everybody is here. It's very personal."

Paula Head has two daughters at Jolly and is involved in the school's PTO. Head was initially sad and a little scared about a new school, but that has passed.

"There's no fear anymore. I think I was scared because of the change and losing a small school," she said. "But once the decision was made to build a new one, we've been as positive about it as we could be."

Her younger daughter, Sophie, is in third grade and will be in fifth grade when she transfers to the new school. Sophie saw the drawings of the school last week. "I like it a lot," said Sophie. "I like the gym and the library and how big it was."

While the new enrollment number won't be a big jump for those at Alexandria, there will still be plenty of changes - all for the positive, said Principal Linda Matz.

"Our school now is a campus-style school with six buildings," said Matz. "We walk in the rain, snow and ice to get to classes. We lose a lot of instruction time just getting hats and coats on."

Alexandria was built in 1960. Until a couple of years ago, the school didn't have air conditioning. They still don't in the cafeteria and gym, but the new school will.

As for administrative and teaching jobs, the district will decide next year how many employees the school will need and who the principal will be.

Matz said she expects more teachers will be needed because some students from Riley Elementary in Alexandria may be moved to the new school through redistricting. Poe said she expects her six teachers will move with the students.

"The biggest pro is that our teachers will be able to work with other teachers on their grade level, something they can't do here," said Poe. "It's going to be a big transition, but I think the excitement is building."


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