Education

Back to School: Mergers, renovations among changes

Changes are in store across Middle Georgia as the start of the school year nears.

Here’s a look at some of them in a sampling of midstate school districts:

BIBB COUNTY

The 2015-16 school year for students commences Aug. 3, and the district has a few things parents and students need to keep in mind.

Students at Burghard, Rice, Jones, and King-Danforth elementary schools will all be in new locations, and Bloomfield Middle School students will commingle with Ballard-Hudson Middle School students under the Ballard-Hudson roof.

Jones and King-Danforth students will start their semester at the newly constructed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School located adjacent to the current King-Danforth building off Shurling Drive.

Morgan students will temporarily be in the Rice Elementary building while the new Veterans Elementary is being built to house Morgan and Barden elementary students starting the 2016-17 school year.

The Rice and Burghard students will combine under the old Bloomfield Middle building and will become Southfield Elementary.

Stephanie Hartley, the system’s communications coordinator, said convocation for school employees will be Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Macon Coliseum. Employees will meet at their schools and travel by school bus to the event.

All Bibb County public school students receive free breakfast and lunch under the Community Eligibility Provision, put into place by the school board last year. Any extra items, such as an extra milk or dessert, can be purchased.

Lastly, parents interested in student testing dates for the upcoming school year can find assessment calendars for elementary, middle and high school students at: www.bcsdk12.net/Page/34360.

HOUSTON COUNTY

For Houston County students, no change has been more obvious over the summer than the renovations at Houston County High School.

While the complete project won’t be done, the work is “right on track” for the first day of school on Aug. 3, said Scott Hill, the district’s facilities director.

“It’s a phase project, so we have certain phases we’re working on over a 16-month project,” he said.

All student areas have been finished, and access to the building won’t be limited. One area that will still be under construction is the front office, which Hill expects to be completed within the first few days of school.

For now, administrative staff will use multipurpose rooms for their office space, and students will still be able to use the front door.

“We added some scope to the 100 hall that created some time,” Hill said.

Hill noted that hall was a special needs unit, where more structural work was required due to increased student counts.

“We actually enlarged some classrooms because there were more handicapped children than usual this year,” Hill said.

The only area with common educational use that won’t be ready for the first day is the media center, which Hill expects to be completed by Sept. 3.

JONES COUNTY

Superintendent Chuck Gibson will welcome back all faculty and staff on Aug. 4 at the annual beginning of the year convocation. The general session will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Gray Station Middle School.

“The Jones County Board of Education is excited to kick off the new school year with Mr. Chuck Gibson leading the school system as the new superintendent,” Geneva Braziel, a Jones County assistant superintendent, said. “We are looking forward to welcoming everyone back to school.”

The school system will host open house for middle and high school students on Aug. 5 from 5-7 p.m. Open house for elementary schools will be held Aug. 6 from 5-7 p.m.

Parents will be greeted by faculty and staff at their child’s school.

The first day of school for all students will be Aug. 7.

The school district will also begin its New Teacher Induction Program for all teachers new to the district on July 27 at 7:45 a.m.

On Tuesday, all new teachers and their mentors will be treated with a “Welcome Cook-Out.” New teacher orientation will conclude with a narrated tour of Jones County.

Additionally, the newly renovated Jones County Pre-K Center (former Gray Elementary School) will house all pre-K students in the district.

MONROE COUNTY

Monroe County has also had some construction going on this summer.

Hubbard Elementary School got a major makeover, one that interim Superintendent Mike Hickman expects to be done before classes start on Aug. 14.

“That was one of the reasons we’re starting a little later,” Hickman said.

All the halls are getting tile floors instead of carpet, and some classrooms are getting updated carpet and lighting. Some exterior upgrades are also being done, but the main focus of the work is on the school’s interior.

“It’s basically going to look like a new school on the inside,” Hickman said.

The district is also building a new fine arts center, but it won’t be ready until next fall. While the project doesn’t affect operations at any of the schools, Hickman said it would require extra thought for parking at the board office and the football stadium.

Hickman also represents a change in the district, which came after the resignation of former Superintendent Anthony Pack.

“It’s been great so far. We’ve been hard at work getting ready for school,” he said. “I’m excited about my new role.”

He said that his interim contract is for one year but added that the board could take action earlier or decide to extend the deal.

PEACH COUNTY

Peach County has six schools, and three of them have new principals this school year.

Al Pollard is replacing Bruce Mackey at Peach County High School, Sonya Coley is taking over for LaNessia Miller at Hunt Elementary and Pamela Slocumb is taking the reins at Kay Road Elementary from Angela Ezell.

“I think we’ve got good administrators,” said Superintendent Daryl Fineran. “We’ve actually got three new administrators to the county that I think bring a lot to the table.”

The students will also see a change in the cafeteria, starting with free meals for all Peach County students.

“I think it’s more a benefit to the family ... that they have that extra income,” said Matoshia Grant, the first-year nutrition director. “That leaves money in the community.”

Grant said she’d also be shaking up the menu at Peach County High School. That will include an increased variety on the menu, a salad bar after the first couple of weeks and a grab-and-go option for lighter menu items like sandwiches and fruit.

It’s all in an effort to get more students eating at school.

“There’s a lot of things we have in mind that we’re going to do,” Grant said.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382. To contact Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.

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