JEFFERSONVILLE, In. (WAVE) - It’s back to class Thursday for students in Greater Clark County Schools. But for students at Maple and Spring Hill Elementaries in downtown Jeffersonville, the first day is also a last.
At the end of the year, school leaders will move out of the buildings and into the soon-to-be completed Franklin Square Elementary downtown. But after many long years in these buildings, the final year at Maple and Spring Hill will be bittersweet for many.
Early Thursday morning, calls of “good morning" and “welcome back" rang out through the hallways leading into the gym as teachers and staff welcomed students to the start of the new year at Spring Hill.
”Oh yeah, it’s almost magical to see all their faces and smiles and only a couple tears,” Melinda Riley, a fifth grade teacher at Spring Hill, said.
This first day back, the final first day of school Spring Hill will ever see.
“So we will miss the building, miss the location but we do look forward to a new one,” Virenda Cunningham-Lester, the principal at Spring Hill and Maple Elementary Schools, said.
Cunningham-Lester will also serve as the principal of the new Franklin Square Elementary School once it opens.
“You know 21 years of memories here and like I said, we feel like a family here. But on the flip side of that, it’s also really exciting to think of the new adventures we’re going to have at the new school,” Riley said.
Maple and Spring Hill were built in the early 1960s. After many decades of use, the facilities show their age. While the small school operates as big family, Riley said over 21 years of teaching at the school, she’s seen enrollment levels decrease steadily.
“The building being older, there are pluses and minuses of everything, you know. Our buildings are really large but our air conditioners go in and out,” Riley said.
But not everyone will be sad to say goodbye.
“Nope,” Ivy Ward, a third grade student at Spring Hill, said. “Next year, Maple and Spring Hill are going to combine their schools and make one big school.”
When the last student and staff member leaves the building at the end of the school year, both Maple and Spring Hill won’t sit empty for long. The district plans to sell both buildings, one to Bethel AME Church and the other to CASI in Jeffersonville, ensuring both buildings will continue to be used in the community.
The opening of Franklin Square Elementary downtown next fall means up to date technology and a state of the art building. Many students are excited for what’s next.
”Seeing the Maple kids, seeing the Maple teachers, seeing all them," James Caswell, a third grade student at Spring Hill, explained.
“Yes, I’m excited because there’s going to be slide,” Chloe Kallbreier, a third grade student at Spring Hill, said.
While the new school nearby will offer more opportunities and a fresh start educating kids in downtown Jeff, leaving Spring Hill feels bittersweet.
“We’ve got 180 days to go, okay. But we’ll make it work, it’ll be a smooth transition,” Cunningham-Lester said.