New school buildings pop up in Columbia County at a seemingly dizzying pace.
Lewiston Elementary school celebrates its first anniversary this month, and Grovetown Middle passed its first birthday in January.
On the horizon, a new elementary school on Mulliken Road opens next year. Site plans also are underway for a new Evans Middle School on Hereford Farm Road.
Columbia County Schools Superintendent Tommy Price said he is particularly looking forward to the construction of a new office for him and his staff next to Evans Middle.
"We hope to be in that office a year from now," he said. "We own the property now and the design work is underway. We'll get that going as quickly as possible."
And even more construction ensues on a new middle school to open for the 2005-06 school year.
"We're looking for a site for that now," Price said. "It'll definitely relieve Riverside Middle, in particular, and probably Lakeside Middle and maybe Greenbrier Middle. We're going to rezone to try and relieve as many of the overcrowded middle schools we can."
Many more new programs and facilities await students in the coming school year.
What's Ahead for Columbia County Schools:
Evans, Lakeside and Greenbrier high schools will offer an SAT prep course as an academic elective for the first time this year. In the past, schools have offered SAT Prep courses after school officials said there was a demand to broaden access to the extra tutoring.
A simple test will no longer bar the door to some higher-level middle school courses. Two new gifted courses - science and language arts - have been added to the schedule.
There will be a non-binding referendum in the November general election asking voters whether the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Education should be elected countywide.
Voters will be asked to approve a $20 million bond referendum that would immediately provide the money needed to build three new schools.
Voters will also be asked to extend the school system's one-cent sales tax for another five-year cycle - 2007-2012. The proceeds from the penny tax, estimated at $79 million, will repay bonds. The questions will go to voters in March 2005.
More Columbia County students will be riding in comfort after 43 buses were retrofitted with air conditioning. The cost to do the project was $283,800. The 43 buses are those that have at least seven years remaining in the 10-year depreciation cycle. Of the system's 155 buses, only 28 previously had air conditioning. The board purchased 10 new buses last fall and will continue the practice until all the buses in the fleet have cool air.
Construction will begin in February on a new middle school to replace Evans Middle School. The board recently sold the 21-acre property for $4.8 million to Blanchard & Calhoun and Abernathy & Timberlake Investment LLC, an Atlanta-based company. They will begin commercial development of the property when the school moves at the start of the 2006 school year.
Online courses will be offered for the first time this year. Gwinnett County's online campus has offered Columbia County 75 slots for the 2004-05 school year with a course registration fee of $285 per half credit. The county has also joined the Georgia e-Learning Consortium to gain additional course offerings.
Work has begun at the new elementary school at Mullikin and Conn roads. The design of the 36-room school will be nearly identical to Lewiston Elementary School, which opened last year. It will cost about $6 million to build. The new school, which will relieve Riverside Elementary, Stevens Creek Elementary and Greenbrier Elementary, is expected to open its doors for the 2005-06 school year.
Alan Griffin will be top dog at Harlem High School. Griffin replaces retired Principal Barry Hemphill. Griffin served for 11 years as Hemphill's assistant principal. New assistant principals under Griffin will be Cory Ellis and Carla Shelton.
Susan Gilbert will be South Columbia Elementary School's new principal, replacing retiring Principal Donna Murray. Gilbert, who has been an educator for 27 years, has been assistant principal of the school for the past three years. She taught fourth grade for 12 years at Brookwood Elementary School. South Columbia Elementary School will become a Title I school this year.
Ret. Col. James Sharpe Jr. will be Columbia County's new transportation director. Former director Shirley Doolittle will be the assistant transportation director and route supervisor. Sharpe served in the military for 25 years and was a transportation officer.
Ticket prices in some school athletic events will increase this year. Junior varsity football, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball ticket prices will increase by $1.
Evans High School and Columbia Middle School have new or renovated labs this year. Evans High gets a new cooking lab with adjacent sitting area for students studying the culinary arts as an elective. Columbia Middle students will have a renovated chemistry and biology lab.
In the second semester of the school year, school officials will implement a pilot program that allows parents to access their child's grades and attendance online. Parents will be given a password that allows them to access their child's teacher's grade book through a link at www.ccboe.net.
The pilot program begins at Stevens Creek Elementary, Greenbrier High and a yet-to-be-named middle school. The program expands countywide for the 2005-06 school year.
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