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Central begins new school year

Young students clamber off the bus at Central R-3 Elementary in Park Hills on Monday, as the district’s four buildings swung open its doors for the first day of the 2023-24 school year. (Dan Schunks)


Students may wonder where the summer went and parents may wonder where the years have gone but, ready or not, the 2023-2024 school year is here and North County and Central students and teachers headed back to class Monday.

The Daily Journal is featuring a school district’s first day in each edition this week, with more pictures from one of that district’s elementary schools on page 3.

Cars were lined up for several blocks as parents delivered their children for the first day of school on Monday at Central Elementary in Park Hills.

The preschool through second grade expects an enrollment of about 560 this year according to school Principal Tracie Casey.

Assistant Principal Gena Sitton, Counselor Sarah Thurman, and Officer Shaw of the Park Hills Police Department greeted the students as they disembarked from their vehicles and buses to head into a new school year.

There were a few tears, many smiles, and a little apprehension from both students and parents. A few kids gave their parents the over-the-shoulder, “later” wave as they entered the building.

The atmosphere was very welcoming, positive, and encouraging as these future adults took those steps into the next level of learning upon entering the building.

It seems mildly ironic that the first day of classes is projected to be the hottest day of the summer, but with climate-controlled air conditioning, the students, teachers, and staff no longer have to deal with temperatures that made survival the main issue of the day rather than learning.

The doors are open, the classrooms ready, and teachers, students, and staff are in place. Let the new school year begin.

Central R-3 School District has an enrollment just over 2,000 students with a student-teacher ratio of 14:1, according to the Missouri Department of Education. Its graduation rate of more than 95% puts it in the top 5% for matriculation in the state.

Central’s average testing ranking is 7/10, which is in the top 50% of public schools in Missouri, and its student body has an average math proficiency score of 36% (versus the Missouri public school average of 35%), and reading proficiency score of 46% (versus the 45% statewide average).

The district will have no school on Sept. 4 Labor Day, Sept. 22 Staff Development, the afternoon of Oct. 6 Homecoming, Nov. 20-24 Fall Break, Dec. 22-Jan. 3 Winter Break, Jan. 15 Staff Development, Feb. 12 Staff Development, Feb. 19 Presidents Day, March 25-29 Spring Break, April 8 Great American Eclipse.

The end of the school year is May 17.

The Central students are spread over four schools in the district: Central Elementary, West Elementary, Middle School and High School.

Administration is overseen by Superintendent Dr. Ashley McMillian and Assistant Superintendent Mike Harlow, and the administrative offices are located at 200 High St. in Park Hills, phone: 573-431-2616 ext. 5103, website

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