A low hum of voices and a steady stream of children marked the first day in the lunchroom at Harlem Middle School.
Or is it Grovetown Middle School?
The tide in the lunchroom ebbed and flowed - Grovetown Middle pupils out, Harlem Middle pupils in. With the campuses combined, it was difficult to tell a Bulldog from a Patriot.
Wednesday was the first day of school for Columbia County's 19,115 pupils, but for Harlem and Grovetown middle schools, it was the beginning of a grand experiment. It was the first time school officials have combined schools on one campus.
When the construction of the $8.3 million Grovetown Middle School is completed in January, Grovetown's pupils, teachers and faculty will move to their new school.
Grovetown Middle School parents are invited to parents night at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 in the gymnasium. School officials will answer questions and will update parents on the progress of the school's construction and plans to move their children.
"The kids know each other and they know what's to come. They get to have a first day of school twice this year," Grovetown Middle Principal Carolyn Fries said.
While school officials have planned and stressed over the combination of the two schools, Fries said the first day of school went smoothly. The only hitch was the traffic flow in the morning, which changed from last year because of construction at Harlem Middle School.
But whether Harlem or Grovetown, the pupils seemed unfazed.
"I don't really have a problem with it," said Alex Martinez, a Grovetown Middle sixth-grader who was eating hamburgers and french fries with friends Max Stone and Justin Smith.
But they all agreed they were excited about going to their new school in January.
"We've been told that we'll be the first ones to graduate from the new school," said Kelsey Day, a Grovetown Middle sixth-grader.
The 850 pupils, staff and teachers on the campus will be divided after the winter holidays when the school opens. Grovetown Middle is now housed in portable units on the Harlem Middle School campus.
"That's cool," said Samantha Clanton, a seventh-grader at Harlem Middle on the combining of the campuses. "At least you can see your friends (from Grovetown Middle) at lunch until then."
Distinguishing the difference between the two schools has been a little difficult for parents, Fries said.
Grovetown held its open house Monday in the gym, while Harlem Middle's was on the main campus.
At open house, "One man said 'My son's going to Harlem.' I asked him, 'Where do you live?' and he said 'Grovetown.' 'Then you need to be here,"' Fries said.
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