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Kindergarten students move into new home at Panther Academy

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By Kelly Cantrall

The first new building constructed in Elizabethtown Independent Schools since 1972 will have a full house today, now that all of its students and staff have moved into their permanent home.

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Panther Academy is the new school for EIS preschool and kindergarten students, and kindergartners started school today with the rest of the students in the district.

Preschool students moved into the new school in the middle of last school year, but kindergarten teachers began moving into the building over the summer. Many began moving the day after the last school year ended, teacher Carla Kuhn said. Some teachers began moving earlier, including Dana McCurry, who started preparing her new room in the evenings after school.

The staff moved from Helmwood Heights and Morningside elementary schools, which now begin at first grade. While this was the start of something new for the kindergarten staff, it also meant saying goodbye to coworkers and past students. Teacher Becky Pinkham attended Helmwood, and it was her goal to teach there one day.

“It was bittersweet,” she said.

Special education teacher Emily Murphy left behind some children who had been her students for seven years, she said.

“It felt like my own children,” Murphy said.

McCurry said she tried to not to dwell on the sadness and kept herself busy with the move and transition to a new building.

“I kind of tried to block that out,” she said.

To help start the year off with a sense of community, the kindergarten staffs at each of the schools worked together to build lessons and units around new curriculum standards put in place last year. The teachers are excited to be part of creating a new school identity, as is Principal Kelly Graham.

“It’s a unique thing to experience,” Graham said.

Graham said she believes keeping the youngest students of the district together in one building will be a positive step because everything in the building is designed for them, including small tables in the cafeteria.

“We’re all little people here,” she said.

Teacher Jaunie Knapp said the students no longer will be intimidated by older students, and they get to be the oldest in the school.

“They’re the big kids,” she said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenews enterprise.com.