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Central Middle School Gets High-Tech Overhaul

Ben Palosaari

"That's the boys' restroom," Central Middle School 7th grader Camryn Jones says as she gives her family a tour of her brand-new school. 

"Is it different than the girls' bathroom?" her grandmother asks as she pokes her head through the door.

Camryn keeps walking. What she really wants to show off to her family is her math classroom at the end of the hall. 

“I can learn a lot from this room, because math’s my favorite subject," she says standing by her desk. 

Central Middle School, along with Northeast Middle School, opened this year after being completely redesigned. Everything about Central is new including its students, staff and its blue and gold Warhawk mascot. The hallways feature group work areas with modern, brightly colored furniture and massive flat screen TVs. In these spaces, the building feels more like a university student union than a junior high. 

Jones beams with pride while showing people around her school. 

“This is like a home away from home. It’s really nice," she says. 

The overhaul of the two schools cost more than $20 million, and much of that went into technology. Starting this week, each student will work with a laptop – no textbooks are needed. And classrooms are equipped with a special screen that displays lessons from a computer and allows teachers to digitally write and draw on them. Central principal Cynthia Johnson says the school is a modern learning laboratory that will be the standard for Kansas City schools someday. 

“In today’s society, students no longer work in isolation. That have to learn how to work together, learn how to collaborate on projects," she says. "These buildings that you see right now are really representative of what true, 21st century learning environments look like.”

Central will enroll only 7th graders this year, but next year it will add the 8th grade. Kansas City Public Schools has put an emphasis in the last two years on students in 7th and 8th grades with the idea that those are the crucial years for children to form positive feelings about education.

Math teacher Stacy Gilson says that focus is why she wanted to come work at Central. 

"This is absolutely where I wanted to be," she says. "As 7th graders, [they're] in need of a teacher that knows their needs, that understands that they're going through a lot personally and educational-wise that are going to change the way they look at education." 

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