Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

At Bennett Elementary, a Brand New Look; New Wing at Old School Has 16 New and Dreamy Classrooms

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

At Bennett Elementary, a Brand New Look; New Wing at Old School Has 16 New and Dreamy Classrooms

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

Looking around her brand new classroom Monday, Brenda Cramer could hardly contain her joy.

After 12 years at Charles E. Bennett Elementary, mostly spent in one of the oldest classrooms in one of the older schools in Clay County, she was stunned at her spacious, gleaming new digs - part of a 16-classroom wing opening for the 2007-08 year.

"When I first came into this room, you should have seen my face," she said. "It was a dream house makeover, only it was my classroom!"

On Monday, Cramer joined about 2,700 Clay County teachers on their first official day back in the classroom for the 2007-08 school year. But many of them have already spent unofficial weeks on the job arranging their classrooms and preparing for the 36,000 students who will arrive next Monday.

The Bennett wing and Coppergate Elementary are the only new buildings opening this year in the Clay school district. Next year promises more, with two new elementary schools and other additions.

At Bennett, the new wing and a second classroom wing now under construction are long-awaited replacements for facilities dating back to the school's early years in the 1950s. The wing opening this year will house primary grades; the wing to open in 2008 will house second- and third-grade classes.

Also, the school has a newly strengthened academic pride to match its new building.

At a welcome back breakfast Monday, Superintendent David Owens praised staffers for "making AYP" - being designated under the federal No Child Left Behind program as making adequate yearly progress in at-risk student achievement for 2006-07.

"Thank you, Charles E. Bennett," Owens said. "Thank you for a great job."

Bennett and other Title I schools, which receive federal funding for supplemental reading and math instruction for areas with high poverty and low-achieving students, face high stakes for not making the federal grade. Title I schools that fail to get the AYP designation have to provide additional services to struggling students, allow students to transfer to alternate schools and, if they fail three years in a row, must plan restructuring measures. …

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