Education

New Harris County school almost complete

For some 730 Harris County fifth- and sixth-graders, August will mean a new school designed and built for their specific needs.

It also will be the first time the Harris County School District has opened a school to serve those two grades alone, a nearly $13 million facility off Ga. Highway 315 between Mulberry Creek Elementary and the county’s E.C. Pate Park.

Project Superintendent Aaron Buchanan with Torrance Construction Co., the builder from LaGrange, Ga., said the project is 97 percent complete. He expects to turn over Creekside Intermediate School to the school system by the end of March, except for a little work to be done on the gymnasium.

School board Chairwoman Karen Hopkins said during a tour of the facilities Tuesday that the board discussed building a school for fifth- and sixth-graders during a retreat a few years ago.

“I didn’t think sixth-graders belonged in middle school,” Hopkins said.

The new school will house all the county system’s students in the two grades, and help ease overcrowding by removing fifth-graders from all four elementary schools and sixthgraders from the middle school. A transportation plan is being developed to bus those students to Creekside.

Principal Dan Lomax, 46, who received his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Auburn University and had been assistant principal at Park Elementary for six years, was named principal in September. Lomax can hardly contain his enthusiasm as he talks about the progress he sees each day.

“I think it’s just an exciting time to bring the best and brightest teachers together to address the needs of the middle grades,” he said.

An advisory team of educators who will serve the school will focus on Georgia Performance Standards curriculum as they look for ways to teach students at a rigorous curriculum while helping them build good relationships.

School officials and board members toured schools in search of a facilities design that would best meet the needs of pre-teen students.

Southern A&E Engineers took the concepts and worked them into the design.

The building is laid out similar to a wheel with spokes leading away from the center.

From the central commons area a teacher or administrator can look down all four of the lengthy hallways to see what is going on, Lomax said.

The structure is designed for student/teacher safety and usage, with several ceilingmounted cameras in each hallway that keep an eye on all activity.

Lomax estimates that nearly 80 security cameras are scattered throughout the 120,500-square-foot facility.

He will oversee a school team that includes 50 teachers, 12 classroom workers and 12 other support personnel.

Most of the fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms are in separate wings.

They include 16 fifth-grade classrooms; 15 sixth-grade classrooms; 10 classes for such things as art, music, physical education, band, chorus; two computer facilities; and four classrooms for special education.

As he examined the double computer-lab facilities, Lomax said interim Superintendent Angel Culp developed the design for the U-shaped facilities.

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