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story.lead_photo.caption Freshman Olivia Sloan is greeted with a fist bump by Capital City High School Principal Ben Meldrum on Tuesday as she prepared to enter the building for the first day of classes. CCHS opened its doors to freshmen and sophomores this year with grades 9-12 starting in 2021. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.
Gallery: Jefferson City School District begins 2019-20 school year

The Jefferson City School District had its first day of class Tuesday for the 2019-20 school year, and while the first day of Capital City High School being open to students was a significant milestone, it wasn't the only one.

Voters in April 2017 approved the tax increases to pay for the bond issue and operating levy increase that made it possible for Jefferson City School District to have two high schools, instead of one — at a budgeted cost of about $141.5 million to build Capital City High School and renovate Jefferson City High School.

Though CCHS opened Tuesday for freshmen and sophomores, in 2021 it will start the school year like JCHS did Tuesday with students in grades 9-12.

Freshmen previously attended Simonsen 9th Grade Center, but Simonsen closed in May. The students of Simonsen's last class, now sophomores, are the first to attend high school where the district's attendance boundary lines assign them to go.

The district's current juniors and seniors will finish out high school at JCHS.

At a lunch table at JCHS on Tuesday — inside the newly renovated cafeteria — high school juniors Ethan Walling, Ethan Mell and Bradley Hamner talked about how the district's new school start times had made their lives easier Tuesday morning.

The school district's Board of Education approved in March a change to start and end times. JC Schools' elementary school class hours are 7:45 a.m.-2:45 p.m.; high schools, 8:40 a.m.-3:40 p.m.; and middle schools, 8:50 a.m.-3:50 p.m.

"I got to work out this morning," Hamner said, adding he then had 30 minutes to spare after the gym before school.

Hamner said he got up at about 6:10 a.m. Tuesday, when last year he would have had to wake up at about 4 a.m. to make it to the gym before school — which is why he didn't really do that previously.

Mell, who lives in Tebbetts, said last year he had to wake up at about 6:30 a.m. to catch the bus, but Tuesday, he woke up at 8 a.m. to drive, making it to JCHS by 8:30 a.m.

Walling, of Holts Summit, said it was nice to wake up Tuesday without an alarm clock.

All three students are also Nichols Career Center students — Mell in welding and Hamner and Walling in automotive technology. They were pleased with the renovations to JCHS, particularly having a connection between JCHS and Nichols, instead of sometimes having to walk all the way around the building like they did last year to get to Nichols.

"I can find classrooms a lot easier," Walling said.

Students still needed some help on the first day learning where to go — renovations aside, Tuesday was the first time in 26 years that freshmen have attended at JCHS — but Amy Berendzen, JC Schools director of community relations, said the district has sent multiple texts and emails to students and staff about how to get around.

At the other end of the lunch table from Hamner, Mell and Walling, junior Cheyenne Brown also appreciated JCHS' renovations.

"It makes the school come together," Brown said, though she looked forward to having the outside eating area finished — it was not on Tuesday.

In a hallway next to JCHS' cafeteria, Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher David Gale said he was enjoying having central air conditioning, instead of the window units of the past.

Gale said he's temporarily teaching out of a commons area, as renovations at the school continue, but last year, he did have one of the newly renovated classrooms.

JCHS started school Tuesday with its current gym, cafeteria, kitchen, commons, administrative offices and Nichols shop classes planned to be complete.

JCHS' new practice gym, storm shelter and building connector with Nichols are expected to be completed in October, with final classroom renovations complete in January.

JC Schools Superintendent Larry Linthacum said after school on Tuesday that while JCHS' staff are looking forward to having the renovation work completed, "they see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Linthacum said he had visited all of the district's schools Tuesday — starting with JCHS, followed by Thorpe Gordon Elementary School. He said he was not aware of any issues on the first day, other than a fire alarm that had gone off at Capital City High School.

CCHS' construction is expected to be fully completed in December — with remaining classrooms, the gyms, theater and shops to be finished then.

CCHS opened with its initial phase of construction — 40 classrooms, kitchen, commons, administrative offices, a practice field and a parking lot — planned to be complete.

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