First day runs smoothly at Chattahoochee County High School

Wednesday was the first day of school for students in Chattahoochee County, and everyone in the high school was adjusting to the switch from block scheduling to a seven-period schedule.

Principal Jim Sims said things were running smoothly — “But it’s early,” he added.

The school system could see even more changes over the coming year, as Fort Benning grows and more students arrive. Sims said he expects about 600 more students after the U.S. Army relocates the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., to Fort Benning through its Base Realignment and Closure program.

“We could accommodate another 200 to 250 pretty well,” he said. The school recently added a new wing of classrooms, and Sims said he has seven vacant classrooms to accommodate new students. A new school has also been discussed as an option, he said.

The high school is already seeing some growth. About 90 seniors graduated last year but this year’s freshman class has about 150 students. The school ended the 2009-2010 school year with 440 students and Wednesday’s head count totaled about 475. Sims said he expects more students in January and the most growth in the late spring and summer.

But at a high school where 60 percent of the students come from military families, change is constant. Most schools get between 10 and 20 new students a year, Sims said, but last year, Chattahoochee County High School got 157.

“The kids — believe it or not — fit in really well,” he said. “You stand up in the cafeteria and you can’t tell.” The school will have a military life consultant beginning in August to help new students adjust.

Students, like junior James Martin, seem to welcome the changes and new people.

“More kids, more people to meet,” Martin said.

“You make new friends. You’ve got to be open-minded,” added Ulysses Dice, a junior.

“When it gets real crowded, they’ll build another wing,” said Alex Gossett, a senior. He said many students come from Fort Benning and are used to being the new kid at school.

“I’m excited to get to meet all the new people coming in,” said Rachel Brown, a junior.

She also said she liked the new seven-period schedule.

“The new schedules mean more classes by the end of the year,” she said. “You don’t have to sit in the same class for an hour and a half.”

For new students like freshman Jessica Saunders, the schedule makes it easier to adjust from middle school to high school.

“I’ve only been to one class,” Saunders said. “It was math and it was easy to find.”

Saunders came from Faith Middle School and said she knew some people in her class. After teasing her for being “fresh meat,” the juniors and seniors told her not to worry — people are usually friendly and helpful to the new kids.

“Here, you can talk to anyone,” Martin said.

Sara Pauff, 706-320-4469

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