BAXTER SPRINGS As students begin yet another school year in the community of Baxter Springs, construction efforts continue at Central School, as the school district continues working toward its multi-million dollar education facelift.

Central School, which is presently attended by students in third through fifth grades, is currently constructing a sixth-grade wing, which will bring in additional students early next year.

"We're just really excited about everything that's going on here," said Central Principal Robert Womack. "Things are going very smoothly and our kids and parents are also excited about the changes we're making."

In addition to the new sixth-grade wing, those changes also involve extensive work on the school's existing classrooms, hallways and restrooms, as well as the construction of a storm-safe room.

"Just having a storm-safe area is a huge blessing to our students and their families," Womack said. "In the past few years, we've had tornados on both sides of us and this new facility is something the entire community can feel good about."

Although Womack said that ongoing construction efforts have caused some small inconveniences for the school and its staff, creative teachers have also utilized the project as an opportunity for teaching their kids.

"They're pouring concrete out front right now," Womack said last Friday. "And some of our teachers are using that to demonstrate how concrete works, and even utilizing subjects like math to show students how construction workers figure out how much concrete they need."

Currently, Central School serves approximately 240 students, although about 75 new students will begin attending the facility in January after the new sixth-grade wing opens its doors.

"We feel really good about everything we've got going on," said school superintendent Dennis Burke, who has worked hard in past years to make bring these school updates to life. "We're very pleased with the work that's been done and we're excited about the future of education in Baxter Springs."

Burke said that enrollment numbers have climbed in recent years, with the Baxter Springs school district now boasting just over 1000 students.

"In the last six or seven years our enrollment has continued to go up," Burke said. "And with our new updated facilities, we expect that trend to continue in the years ahead."

Burke has served as an educator in the area for the past 33 years and feels very good about his district's campuses and educational opportunities.

"We have a lot of really positive things going on here," Burke said. "And I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it all."

Construction at Central School and Baxter Springs' other school campuses is expected to be fully completed by late December.