Greenbrier Elementary School kindergarten teachers Andy Baumgartner (clockwise from top), Deanne Murphy, Andrea Booker, Lisa Pounds and Ronnie Horne gather on their first day back from summer vacation to plan for the new year, which starts for the pupils next week.
Greenbrier senior class officers Britney Hughes (from left), Shay Seymour and Shannon Yu sit under banners they made to decorate the school's hallways.
Bye, Bye Summer Columbia County's 19,115 pupils loaded up their school supplies and headed back to class today, although some middle-schoolers won't be in a permanent location.
Construction of the new $8.3 million Grovetown MiddleSchoolis under way and is expected to be complete Jan. 2.
Until then, school officials will try something that's never been done before: combine two schools on one campus and then split them mid-year.
Meanwhile, Harlem Middle School is also undergoing a major renovation. The classrooms are complete, but construction will be ongoing on a new administrative building.
To start the year, Harlem's 850-pupil population and its teachers have been divided. The Grovetown Middle School Patriots - pupils and teachers - will be housed in 16 portable units at Harlem Middle School.
When school resumes after the winter holidays, those teachers and pupils will be moved to the new school.
"The new science labs in the Harlem building are up and looking good. The custodians have spent untold hours getting the building back together," said Carolyn Fries, the new principal of Grovetown Middle School. "The portables are here, operational and ready to go. We've planned about as much as we can plan. We just need to get them in the building and see where we need to tweak some things."
Construction is also under way at a new elementary school on Hereford Farm Road, but that won't help the county's crowded elementary schools this year. The school is not set to open until 2003.
Crowding shouldn't be a problem for others. The school system is adding 37 new rooms to Evans, Lakeside and Greenbrier high schools. Construction is ongoing at Lakeside and Greenbrier.
"It will be ready when they get here," Evans High Principal Don Brigdon said. "We may be in the classrooms with workers doing a little touch up, a little tweaking. We'll probably have a week of that, then we'll be done. Students can expect to find nice new chemistry and art rooms and a brand new social studies wing and a new special ed room. Our science department has had the most improvement with state of the art science and chemistry labs."
The Lakeside High parking lot has also been expanded and resurfaced, providing additional student parking. And to help relieve traffic congestion, school officials pushed back the start time for Lakeside. While the other three high schools will begin the day at 7:40 a.m., Lakeside will start 10 minutes later at 7:50 a.m., with the school day ending at 2:50 p.m.
Pupils will also see some new faces in front of the classroom this year. The school system has hired 33 new teachers to meet growth demands and to come into compliance with state-mandated pupil-teacher ratios. This year's kindergarten classes will be limited to 20 pupils, first and second grades will be capped at 24 with a full-time paraprofessional and third-grade classes will have no more than 21 pupils.
This is also the first year middle schools will offer foreign language for high school credit, beginning in seventh grade.
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