By Cindy Larson
New Haven Junior High students — those in seventh and eighth grades — are settling into new digs on the other side of the highway from where the school was located a year ago.
On Aug. 9, East Allen County officials and local politicians celebrated the move with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new junior high, which is attached to the existing high school at 1300 Green Road.
The project included additions for the junior high classrooms, a security entrance and school administration area, an auxiliary gym and major renovations to the existing building. The addition is 102,855 square feet. The total cost of the project is $32 million.
The addition added 28 classrooms specifically for the junior high. A few areas are still under construction but are supposed to be finished by the end of the first semester. They are the media center; band and choir rooms; art rooms; and technical skills (industrial arts).
Across Indiana 930 the previous junior high — which at one time was the high school — has been reduced to a pile of rubble.
But nobody seemed to care on the day of the ribbon-cutting. All eyes and attention were focused on the new building, which hosted an open house for students, parents and the community immediately after the ceremony.
Those curious about the new school flowed in through the main entrance, Door 1, where a big painted bulldog stood in the middle of the hall. A sign on a white board pointed the way to the new junior high classrooms.
Teachers were in their freshly decorated classrooms, ready to greet students. Brigette Emrick, who is in her 25th year of teaching, loves the New Haven schools for the camaraderie.
“It feels like family,” she said. She loves the parents and the kids, and the diversity.
Emrick teaches seventh-grade language arts. Her classes average 19 to 20 kids. She has a tree decorated with lights in her room as well as other decorations that make it feel less institutional. “I try to make it homey and inviting for the kids,” she said. She averages 19-20 students per class.
Emrick also provides exercise balls kids can sit on in lieu of regular chairs. The balls give them the ability to move around a little more than in a regular chair, however she warns them if she sees them bouncing up and down on the balls the students will have to go back to sitting in a chair.
Teacher Trisha Mitchell’s classroom looks very nontraditional. She calls it a “mild intervention” class. The first thing you might notice is that some of the desks have what look like bicycle pedals. Others have stretchy bands on the chair legs that can absorb some excess energy. Both desk accessories are there “just so they can move and fidget,” she said.
She also has a dining room table and chairs and a sofa in the room, to make it feel like home. And new this year is a class pet — a turtle. Students will be responsible for taking care of it.
Mitchell’s students also operate a coffee cart out of her room. Teachers can order coffee and students will make it, deliver it and collect money. It teaches them life skills, job skills and social skills, Mitchell said.
As for the new facility, she said, “We’re all getting used to all the newness.”
New Haven High School Principal Anna Murphy says she’s excited for the kids.
“They’ve been so patient and understanding the past couple of years,” she said.
Student Aveion Walker, 12, who is entering seventh grade, gave the new school his stamp of approval. He’s excited to be changing classrooms every period. As for his assessment of the new school vs. the old: “It looks way better,” he said.