At least some Columbia County children are looking forward to starting school Monday.
Many pupils enrolled at the new Stallings Island Middle School said they were excited to attend the new school.
"I'm excited. It's awesome. It's huge," said Grant Miller, 12, who will start seventh grade.
He was one of about 300 people, including administrators, school board members, county officials, Stallings Island staff members, parents and pupils, who gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the school Tuesday.
The Blackstone Camp Road facility, which includes 50 instructional units and will open with a projected 534 pupils, is the county's only two-story school. It has a capacity of 850 pupils.
Superintendent Charles Nagle said the project started about six years ago when the school system began looking for land.
"We had to find some way that we could make this project work, so we thought that we would look at a two-story building," he said.
Nagle said Stallings Island, which cost about $20 million, was built on 26 acres. A one-story building would have required about 36 acres, he said.
The school will be a place where children can "learn and maximize their academic success," Nagle said.
Owen Newby, of Martinez Lodge 1571 of the Woodmen of the World, presented the school with American and Georgia flags. The flag presentation has become a tradition for the opening of a new school, Nagle said.
"It's going to be hard to contain all the enthusiasm we're going to see here over the next many, many years," said Regina Buccafusco, the school board chairwoman.
Principal Don Putnam said the faculty and staff were at the school all summer to get the building ready to open.
Suzi Miller, a PTSO member, said the organization also had been busy this summer.
"It's all about raising money right now. It's a beautiful, incredible building," she said.
Many of the parents and pupils toured the building after the dedication ceremony even though they had stopped by the facility this summer.
"It's pretty. I like the cafeteria. It's so big," said rising sixth-grader Taylor Richards, 11, who has made several visits to the school.
She said she is looking forward to meeting new people.
Olivia Landrum, 11, who will be in sixth grade, said she had seen the lobby of the school earlier in the summer.
"It's cool. It's big, and it's new. And I like all the windows and stuff," she said.
Her 13-year-old brother, John, who will be in eighth grade, agreed.
"I really like it. I like the gym, and I like the cafeteria," he said.
John said he will miss his friends at Riverside Middle, where he went to school last year. He expected other changes, too.
"It'll be different going up and down stairs all the time," he said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.