Middle school is a critical period in the education of young people as they transition from childhood to adolescence. It is full of changes, excitement, challenges and new opportunities for self-discovery.

This summer, the South-Western City School District will embark on this journey with middle school students as they vacate four existing buildings and finalize construction of a new Beulah Park Middle School (formerly Brookpark Middle School), Finland Middle School, Norton Middle School and Pleasant View College. Additionally, Jackson Middle School is undergoing expansion.

Considering the challenges our students have faced over the past two years due to the pandemic, they are more than ready for a new home. The new buildings will include state-of-the-art technology, labs dedicated to science, life skills and technology, modern music and art rooms, and several spaces designed for collaborative and flexible learning. In addition to the main gymnasium, there is also an auxiliary gymnasium to allow for even more extracurricular activities and events. Our hope is that every student finds their place in the new school.

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At Norton Middle School last year, we eagerly watched the construction process right outside our back doors. With plans, architectural renderings and our imagination, we tried to imagine what the new building will look like. At the start of the second half, we focused on reimagining what it would be like to be a Wildcat in our new home. With the help of staff and eighth graders this fall, we have carefully developed a plan for the expectations of the new school. A new CATS matrix has been created: collaborative, responsible, thoughtful and scholarly. These positive principles are the basis of this “new Norton” that we hope to establish.

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As we packed up our things and said goodbye to the eighth graders, we carefully selected souvenirs to move into the new building. A few former students visited at the end of May to take a walk down memory lane. They remembered sock-hopping in the gym, group battles in the cafeteria, and old teachers and friends. All of our colleges have a rich history, with fun memories, friendships and lasting learning. If walls could talk, I can only imagine the stories we would hear.

And so we honor our former members of the school. We are grateful to our current community for allowing us to build these new facilities. And we are excited about what the future holds for each of these school buildings. We hope you will join us in August for our ribbon-cutting ceremonies and experience what our new homes of learning will be for many years to come.

Elizabeth Ketcham is the principal of Norton Middle School.

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