School started Tuesday for Columbia Public Schools. District officials say the first day went off without any problems despite district-wide construction and renovations that took place over the summer.
During the summer, CPS was working on $48 million-worth of projects, not including construction of the new Battle Elementary, which is expected to open for summer classes in 2015. Columbia Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Baumstark says there are still a few minor adjustments to be made in the first weeks of classes.
"We had a lot of new things this school year with regards to new phone systems and enhanced technology in several of our buildings, new HVAC systems in several of our buildings," Baumstark said, "We’re working on fine-tuning the buzz-in systems that were just installed in the last three buildings that needed buzz-in systems."
Enrollment for CPS is currently at 18,178 students, up by 42 students compared to first day numbers from last year. Baumstark says these numbers are preliminary as students are still enrolling and some will register as late as Labor Day. She says on average the district has grown by 200 students a year over the last decade.
"We anticipate there's certain areas we might have some growth in." Baumstark said, "So we're eager to see what that head count day looks like in September once we balance out all the people that have moved with our new enrollments."
Baumstark says the district is most excited about completing the installation of a new air-conditioning system at Jefferson Middle School. Jefferson Middle was the last school in the district without a complete system
"The biggest accomplishment that I think we're most proud of is the fact that we finally finished all our air conditioning projects for the district," Baumstark said, "Jefferson Middle School was our biggest obstacle when it came to that and that building has cold air blowing in it so we were very excited about that, not only to complete the project because it was so difficult but also to complete it on time.
The project lasted several years and cost $3 million. Jefferson Middle School Dr. Greg Caine says the cool air is a welcome change to the oldest building in the district.
"It was a constant area of frustration. You had several weeks of miserable teachers and students going into those areas where there wasn't air conditioning," Caine said, "Often a lot of heat release days. Teachers who taught on the third floor, frankly, looked like they'd just jumped in the shower with their clothes on by the end of the day. So it was just difficult for learning."
Kindergarten will start Thursday for CPS. Baumstark says for the second year in a row, kindergarten is starting two days after the rest of the district to allow for teachers to meet with parents and students and assess where each child will be most comfortable academically.