Though construction of the new Martinez Elementary School is slated to be complete early next year, it still hasn’t been decided if pupils will move in then or have to wait.
The school is anticipated to be ready for pupils by mid-February, but Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway said she hasn’t decided whether to interrupt the school year for the move.
“We definitely want to do what’s best for the students and teachers,” Carraway said. “We’ll be talking with the teachers. “(If it’s best), we don’t want to disrupt their learning year.”
Whether pupils populate the school in the spring or the following fall, they will be treated to a new and modern school.
Demolition on the 50-year-old Martinez Elementary building began in July. The staff and pupils of Martinez Elementary are using the former Belair Elementary location until their new home is complete.
The original anticipated opening date for the new $16.5 million school was in the fall, but rain and other delays early on slowed down the process, said Tim Beatty, school system Facilities and Maintenance Director. But construction is well on its way with walls up for the first floor and blocking beginning for the second.
“They are moving along and they are actually doing really good,” Beatty said. “I’m actually pleased with where they are right now.”
The school will be the same two-story design as Evans Elementary, but slightly smaller to fit onto the site. The 106,132-square-foot school will feature 43 classrooms, a wide staircase, wider hallways, larger classrooms, gymnasium and cafeteria and state-of-the-art security features like Evans Elementary.
“The size of the classrooms, everything in a modern building compared to those built in the 1950s and 1960s, certainly is going to be better for the learning environment,” Carraway said, adding that the school will be prepared for modern technology.
The school was designed to accommodate about 800 pupils. Currently, 624 pupils attend Martinez Elementary and 687 attend Evans Elementary. The pupils of the former Belair Elementary were split between the new schools.
“It was almost an even split when we closed Belair,” Carraway said.
Beatty said it’s wishful thinking that the school will be completed ahead of schedule enough to move in over Christmas break.
“We’ve done this (mid-year opening) once before, but we did it over Christmas break,” Beatty said, adding that a weekend just isn’t enough time to move an entire school. “We had two weeks and it was relatively easy.”
Carraway said schools like Cedar Ridge, Baker Place and Greenbrier Elementary schools, which serve areas of the county that are still developing, are steadily growing with 800-1,000 pupils. There are plans to continue replacing older schools. The next on the list to be replaced is North Harlem Elementary.
“We can’t build fast enough,” Carraway said.
Beatty said older schools are usually evaluated at about 50 years to see if it’s more cost-effective to continue to maintain the older building or replace it with a new one. The typical life of a school building is 50-75 years, he said.