Half of the population at Harlem Middle School left last Friday when the new Grovetown Middle School opened its doors.
"I think the kids were kind of shocked," Principal Geoffrey Schlichter said of their reaction when Harlem Middle School pupils came to school Friday and half of them were gone.
In the past eight years he's been principal, Schlichter said the population of the school consistently stayed around 800, climbing one year to 900. It was in 2001 - and after 15 years of begging from Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau - when the school system decided there was enough growth in Grovetown to support a new middle school.
Because Harlem Middle School was so overcrowded, the system decided to rush the construction of the new school and open it mid-year in an effort to relieve overcrowding as soon as possible.
The move of pupils to the new school Friday has created some welcomed breathing room, Schlichter said.
Dividing the population relieves overcrowding in the halls, bathrooms and lunchroom and has reduced the noise by half, he said. In the lunchroom, one row of tables was removed to make more room.
"We'll have a reasonable lunch schedule and we won't have to pack them in so tight," Schlichter said.
The 20 portable classroom buildings that housed Grovetown Middle School pupils and teachers since the beginning of the year are still there, but soon school officials will move the portables out, leaving only four behind for teachers who had not had a permanent classroom.
But Harlem Middle School didn't get left out of the new construction process. Before school began, new science labs were built at the school, along with new administrative offices.
"It's worked out well for both of us," Schlichter said Friday. "They have a nice facility and it leaves us with a manageable number."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.