Bright and shiny, district’s newest school full of anticipation
At Brenda Cowan Elementary, excitement was the buzzword for Day 1 of the 2019-20 school year. As teachers welcomed their classes, staffers tied bus/car tags onto backpacks, and students practiced carrying imaginary trays through the lunch line, everyone seemed in high spirits at the newest facility in Fayette County Public Schools.
For kindergartener Jamarion Carter, every aspect of the first day of school was a thrill. “I saw the gym, the cafeteria, and my room. It’s brand new here. I like the building,” he said as classmates lined up in the hall near a restroom. “I’m very excited, and I like my teacher. I’m going to learn writing and reading, and it’s all new friends.”
Hadley Barger, a fourth-grader, viewed the changes through a more experienced lens. She attended kindergarten at Breckinridge Elementary and spent the past three years at Athens-Chilesburg Elementary, where her mother dropped her off at school. Now Hadley will ride the bus, which is among this year’s new experiences for her. “At first I didn’t really want to go (to Cowan), but now I’m really excited to be somewhere new and make new friends and have new teachers,” Hadley said early Wednesday, adding, “The building is cool, and I love the cafeteria.”
Everything is fresh for first-year teacher Austin Vahle as well. “I literally greeted every bus and every car this morning,” said Vahle, who later ushered classes in a walk-through of the cafeteria. For a Nicholasville native who applied for jobs from Chicago to New York to Bowling Green, the situation could hardly be better. “A drama teacher near home? It was perfect,” Vahle said of accepting the call at Cowan, where he is the only rookie instructor.
Vahle commended Cowan’s strong, diverse leadership team for the focus on students’ mastering content in an interesting way – especially through theater, dance, and visual art. “We’ll be intentional about our arts integration, and it will boost everything. The arts develop the whole child,” he said, citing research that shows a positive impact on engagement levels and assessment scores. “To know we’re the very first teachers in this school is amazing!” he said. “We’ll also celebrate the arts in different cultures, and that’s a great foundation.”