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Veteran principal faces new challenges

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By Rebecca DeSensi

When MariAnn Arnold became the interim principal at Camden Station Elementary nine years ago, she felt much the same as she does now, awaiting the opening of Oldham County’s newest elementary school, Locust Grove — anxious.“When I went from having absolutely no administrative experience to being the interim principal, it was very challenging,” Arnold said. “This new role is challenging as well, just in different ways.”Fortunately, she was able to take more than just processes and procedures from her tenure at Camden to her new position at Locust Grove.Arnold brought six teachers she’d worked with at Camden, as well as office manager Karen Black and counselor, Julie Voegele. Her staff continues to grow as the first day of school draws near.“Enrollment was projected to be much lower than the numbers we are seeing now,” Arnold said. “We just had to add three new teachers!”On the first day of registration for Locust Grove Elementary, all but 79 of their 660 future students came to pick up their materials and register at Locust Grove’s temporary administrative offices at East Oldham Middle. Locust Grove also picked up 15 new students that administrators didn’t anticipate.“That first day was really hectic, but I can’t complain about the setup here at East,” Arnold said. “They have treated us so well and have been so accommodating.”After canceling the school’s open house, previously scheduled for Aug. 11, due to uncertainty about the building’s status, Arnold says construction woes are the main thing causing her anxiety right now.“I want things to be done correctly and to get everything ready before we welcome our parents for an open house,” she said.Welcoming parents is something that is very important to Arnold and her staff.“One of the hardest things for me right now is all of these new faces,” she said. I want everyone to be where they need to be on the first day and feel comfortable. I don’t know them yet so that adds pressure. We can’t wait to get to know our families.”She said in addition to getting to know the staff, parents are also adjusting to a new philosophy at Locust Grove, which includes mixed grade levels.Similar to programs at Buckner Elementary and Camden Station Elementary, kindergarten and first-grade students at Locust Grove are grouped together, as well as second- and third- grade students. As a result, these students will have the same teacher for two consecutive years.Fourth- and fifth-grade students are separated into traditional classroom levels.“This method really gives us the opportunity to individualize our instruction for each student,” Arnold said.Construction activities continued through the first day of school to ensure that students and teachers were in their classrooms on time.In spite of the ambitious construction schedule, the gym and playground areas were not finished and the tile was not completed in the entryway when school opened.Arnold has planned a mural for their three-story entrance which she hopes will get underway soon. She hopes that by the time fall break rolls around, any worries and anxieties will have dissipated and that families and students will feel comfortable in their new surroundings.“I hope we’ll feel settled then,” she said.