Long-awaited Peach schools open for class today

Rain is no longer keeping two new elementary schools in Peach County from opening.

School officials in Peach County hosted ribbon-cutting ceremonies and open houses at Hunt Elementary in Fort Valley and Kay Road Elementary in Byron on Monday amid overcast weather throughout the day.

Today, students will begin attending classes in the two new school buildings that first broke ground in October 2008, 567 days ago — including 97 rainy ones, which delayed opening the schools several months, said Assistant Superintendent of Operations C.B. Mathis.

“The weather today is perfect, since it’s rained on this site every other day,” school board chairman Jody Usry said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kay Road Elementary on Monday morning.

After the long process, Superintendent Susan Clark said it was an achievement to finally open the schools.

“I’m excited. The children deserve to go to school in a building like this,” said Clark. “We’ve weathered the storms, and we’re finally in the sunshine.”

The day began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Hunt Elementary, with staff, school board members and other community leaders in attendance.

“We dream big for Hunt Elementary School. As we open the building, we’re dedicated to the excellence and the teaching and learning of each child,” said principal Ken Banter.

It was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kay Road Elementary, which had to take place inside the main hall because of the rain.

“We’re so excited for the new school, just to see the happiness and joy of being at the new school,” said Kay Road principal Wanda Stewart.

Both Hunt and Kay Road are identical, each with 96,358 square feet at a cost of $11.5 million, Mathis said.

Hunt Elementary fifth-grader Emmanuel Chacon said he looks forward to having bigger desks and new technology in the classroom.

“(I feel) good and kind of sad,” he said. “I only get three weeks in it.”

His mother, Sonia Chacon, was impressed with the school after touring the building.

“The school is really nice. The colors are attractive. I didn’t expect it to be so nice,” she said.

Angelica and Lizbeth Cervantes, fifth-graders at Hunt on the school safety patrol, said they came to the new building Friday to learn the ins and outs of the school to help their fellow classmates find their ways around.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Angelica Cervantes.

The two, who are cousins, said they liked the new building, especially the larger classrooms and color-coded halls.

A third cousin, Stephanie Vargas, who is a fifth-grader also on the school safety patrol, said she looked forward to taking classes there, even if only for a few weeks.

“I’m excited we actually got to go to this school,” Vargas said.

Kay Road Elementary PTO president Jan Hall said she was glad her second-grade son, Ben, would finally get to go to school in the new building.

“It’s somewhere new to be,” Hall said. “We’ve been waiting for a long time.”

Ben said his favorite part of the school is its large gymnasium.

“It feels like the first day of school,” he said.

Despite the rain that fell throughout the afternoon, Hall said students and parents were enthusiastic about the open house.

“I thought it might keep people away, but we’ve had a very good turnout,” she said.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.