From the youngest preschool student to the antsiest high school senior, there is a distinct burst of excitement that accompanies the start of a new school year.
Columbia County's public schools open Monday, along with a couple of the county's private schools. Other private campuses open a little later.
The biggest buzz this year is with the opening of Stallings Island Middle School, the county's newest campus and first two-story school since the 1950s.
The $20 million project - distinctive not just for its height but for its refreshingly un-institutional architecture - helps relieve overcrowding from Riverside Middle. It also meant every middle school had to be rezoned this spring, providing a preview for the high school rezoning that followed.
The latter zones don't take effect until Grovetown High School, the county's fifth public high school, opens next year.
All this construction and population-shuffling is an indisputable sign of the success of Columbia County's schools. The comparison is tragically unavoidable: As Augusta struggles with dwindling populations and a recommendation to close five schools, Columbia County's challenge is in accommodating population growth equivalent to one new school a year while maintaining high academic standards.
The signs of success are in every new face showing up on the buses and in the classrooms Monday, and in the graduates picking up their diplomas next May.
Best wishes to all of them for a stellar school year.
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