An Update On Center Grove’s Newest State-of-the-art Facility

Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger

Photography Provided

Construction on Walnut Grove Elementary School, Center Grove’s sixth elementary, is coming right along. The school was recently enclosed, and with about three-fourths of the construction complete, they’re moving closer towards their opening date.

The school system broke ground on the school in October of 2017, and it’s a welcome addition to the district which has been experiencing phenomenal growth over the last three years. With an influx of families moving into the area, the district projects the enrollment for elementary schools to reach 4,000. Schools have maxed their capacities, and 22 temporary classrooms have been set up to bridge the gap.

When the school opens, teachers and students alike will be anxious for the extra space, plus they can’t wait to make use of the school’s exciting features. First up is that the school will be a two-story structure, making the elementary the first of its kind in the district. The two-story 110,000-square foot building will host about 800 students in the K-5 grade levels in three different sections, each with distinct colors and walnut tree themes. Leading off on the first floor are Kindergarten and First Grades. Their hallway will be green, signifying the seeds of spring.

The second and third-grade corridor will be red for the roots of summer. Upstairs, the fourth and fifth grades will be yellow to represent the fall. In keeping with the nature theme, the shared learning spaces and media center will be blue for the sky, water and winter.

The nature theme is no accident. Since the property at Morgantown and SR 144 was previously a farm field, planners wanted to build the school with the least amount of disruption possible to the property’s natural habitat. The landscape around the school will look and feel of prairie grounds.

“We got a grant from Pheasants Forever which allowed us to buy seeds for certain plants to grow,” says Dr. Bill Long, Assistant Superintendent of Operations.

Thanks to the generous grant, the school will be growing beautiful gardens of pollinator flowers, native grasses and wildflowers to attract native wildlife.

Walnut Grove will not only be nature-friendly but eco-friendly.

“Solar panels will be installed,” says Stacy Conrad, Executive Director of Communications for Center Grove, “The school will be powered partially by that solar energy, making it more energy efficient.”

Geothermal wells will be installed for another energy-efficient element in the building.

“All of these features will enhance the learning experience,” Conrad adds. “Teachers will have a built-in opportunity to use all of these nature and science teaching points in the curriculum.”

For even more teaching points, Walnut Grove will have a STEM lab in one of the common areas. Planners put extra thought into carrying out the vision of shared learning spaces in the common areas. The shared learning spaces will be areas where students in the same grade level can come together for shared projects and lessons. One of those shared learning spaces is the learning staircase which will accommodate large group instruction and access to the second floor.

In its plans for Walnut Grove, administration worked hard to plan a facility that incorporated similar elements to the other elementary schools. In the end, there was a small surprise for the other elementary schools.

“The bids for Walnut Grove came in well under budget,” Long says. “That gives us enough left over to update some things at the other elementary schools, like the playgrounds and some furniture. We’re proud that this project will allow us to make those updates elsewhere.”

As expected, with building a new school, the need for redistricting arises. The redistricting committee comprised of parents, students, community members and administration has put together a redistricting proposal. The committee will present their final recommendations at the February board meeting and the plan will be put to a vote.

“Some families are excited, and others are nervous about changing to a new school,” Long says. “Ultimately, we have to plan the district to maintain our system of three elementary schools feeding into one middle school.”

Walnut Grove is expected to open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. To follow the progress of the construction, visit centergrove.k12.in.us/wges. Walnut Grove Elementary School is located at 4079 Morgantown Rd, in Bargersville.

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