Standing in front of Jones Elementary School, Jordan Vaughn grinned Friday as his relatives snapped a picture on his first day of school.
“It’s going to be good,” the second-grade student said as he grabbed his backpack and made his way inside.
For Jordan and others, it’s their last year at Jones Elementary. Next year, the school system’s facilities plan calls for Jones and King-Danforth Elementary School to merge into a new building, which is being constructed at the King-Danforth site.
For some, the upcoming move made for a bittersweet start to the school year.
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“It’s definitely exciting to have a greater student population with a greater number of colleagues to work with,” said Keisha Lowe, a fifth-grade teacher who has worked at Jones for nine years. “But there is also some apprehension for some of us who have been here, and this is home.”
The August 2015 merger of Jones and King-Danforth is part of a plan to consolidate schools with small populations. Jones, for example, has 324 registered students. Officials hope larger schools will increase student achievement, help teacher development and save money in operating costs.
Other changes are also coming down the pike by then. Bloomfield and Ballard-Hudson middle schools are scheduled to consolidate at Ballard-Hudson. The Bloomfield building will be converted into an elementary school, where Rice and Burghard elementary schools will consolidate. Morgan Elementary will temporarily move into the old Rice building while workers construct a new building at the current Morgan site. Then, in August 2016, Morgan and Barden elementary schools will merge in the new building at Morgan.
Friday was the last first day of school in the current Heard Elementary building. Teachers and students will move into a new Heard Elementary building in January.
At some of those schools, parents said they are excited to see what the future holds.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Reggie Fennelle, parent of a student at King-Danforth, said about the merger. “Being that this school has low (performance) rates, it might help their rates a little.”
As students ventured to school Friday, workers prepared the old primary building at the King-Danforth site for demolition. Gwen Appleby, who has two children at King-Danforth, said she is happy to see a new building erected.
“It will be a better environment,” she said.
This year, King-Danforth principal Sonya Coley is using construction terms when teaching students their academic goals. For example, students are told to nail their learning targets, cut out distractions and hit the books. Students are curious about the new building, and it’s a way to tie that project into academics, she said.
“Everyone is excited,” Coley said of the upcoming move. “We’re just excited about going to a new building.”
Facility changes aren’t the only transformations in Bibb schools this year. Coley is one of several new principals in schools across the county. While district leaders made sweeping staff changes, the academic year began with fully staffed schools, officials said.
At Jones Elementary, Shandra Yarbrough tackled her first day as principal there.
Yarbrough was born and raised in that area of Macon, and she has talked to several families about the merger of Jones with King-Danforth.
“Some of them are going to be disappointed with the closing of the school because of the strong traditions here, but they’re excited for a new building,” she said. “The memories of Walter P. Jones Elementary will live on.”
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.