WINDER - Barrow County schools are opening about two weeks later this year, enabling construction to wrap up at three of its 16 schools. Renovations will continue throughout the year to Apalachee and Winder-Barrow High Schools.
The county's 12,000 students will return to school Friday.
"Parents and teachers seem to like starting on Friday," said Janice Easterling, assistant to Superintendent Ron Saunders. "They can come in, see their classrooms and find out what they need and if they don't have everything, they have the weekend to get it. It has a lot to do with trying to divide up the semester and finish before Christmas break, too."
The school system is clambering to stay on top of growth. It hired about 200 new teachers this year and is expanding and renovating existing schools in an ambitious $52 million project.
"We had a lot bitten off and we had to chew it," said Jake Grant, assistant superintendent of facilities.
Workers just completed
$8 million worth of renovations apiece to Auburn, Holsenbeck and Statham Elementary Schools. That price includes a new kitchen in each school with 22 new classrooms at Auburn and Statham. Holsenbeck Elementary will open with 16 new classrooms, giving every elementary school in Barrow County the capacity to educate 900 students.
The additional space gives the 540-student Auburn Elementary room to grow. Its students occupied 11 trailers when school closed last May. When school opens Friday, four classrooms will stand empty, said Principal Shawn Williams.
"The students got to see construction coming along last year, and I am excited to see their little faces when they come back and it's completed," she said.
Major renovations will give Apalachee and Winder-Barrow High Schools 1,800 student capacity
Students at Winder-Barrow High School will remain in trailers until Christmas time, when construction should be completed. At that time, the vocational students and teachers will move into the trailers and that area will undergo renovations.
"We will have the gym ready for the first basketball game in November," Grant said.
When completed, WBHS students will have a new gymnasium, kitchen and two-story middle section, a completely renovated vocational instruction area and 150,000 square feet of new space.
"Apalachee and Winder-Barrow will be equal in square footage and number of programs," Grant said.
Apalachee High School will open Friday with an expanded media center, modified administration area, freshly painted classrooms and sprinkler systems and a fire alarm system installed throughout the building.
AHS will remain a construction zone throughout the school year while workers add an auxiliary gym, a new band and choral area, counseling and cafeteria additions and 35 new classrooms.
All five schools are renovated to be more conducive to learning, Grant said, with full spectrum indirect lighting and state of the art acoustics.
"When the teacher talks, it doesn't bounce around the room before the kids hear it," Grant said.
New Russell Middle School building planned
School officials are eyeballing property on Mulberry Road on which to construct a new Russell Middle School building, Grant said. The school system expects to receive $6.9 million in state funding for school construction if the legislature votes favorably, he said.
The existing Russell Middle School building might be converted into an elementary school, Grant said, with a 12-classroom addition. The project will be put out for bid in the spring or summer and construction should take 16 months.
"Haymon Morris Middle School has a capacity for 1,200 students and our goal is to bring our other middle schools to that level," Grant said. "Now they can probably hold about 700."
School will end June 6th.