When Greenwood students first step inside their classrooms in the new middle school on Averitt Road, one item they won’t see at the front of each room is the traditional chalkboard or whiteboard.
Instead, the entire front wall of each classroom is covered in a dry erase surface, giving teachers an expansive space to write math equations, instructions or quiz questions, sometimes in conjunction with an overhead projector.
Improved science lab rooms, Wi-Fi throughout the building, a wrestling room, an eight-lane track and extra lockers for sports teams are some of the features of the new middle school.
Construction on the 160,000 square foot building built near Freedom Park is nearing completion, with the goal of work being finished by the end of June, Greenwood schools assistant superintendent Todd Pritchett said. Chairs, desks and tables are lined up in straight rows in many of the classrooms, while other rooms still need the flooring to be finished.
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Classes begin July 31, which leaves less than two months for office staff and teachers to move in. The move begins this week, with tentative plans for some office staff to start coming over to the building, and will continue sporadically as work is completed on different parts of the school, Pritchett said.
Some items, such as books, curriculum materials and computers, are being brought over from the former middle school. Chairs, desks and furniture, are being purchased new for the building.
One part of the new building that Greenwood Middle School Principal Chris Sutton said he was most excited about is the six science labs, which he said are a huge improvement over the current middle school facilities.
Now, when students walk into any of the science labs, they’ll have plenty of working sinks and space to do experiments, which wasn’t the case in the former middle school, as many science rooms either didn’t have sinks, or the ones they had didn’t work, Sutton said.
Creating the most efficient building was the goal from the beginning, Sutton said. Engineers and architects gathered input from staff and teachers as to what layout would be best to save time for students and staff and money on the energy bills.
The school, which is designed in a “v” shape, separates what Sutton described as the academic wing of the building from the athletic and extracurricular side. Groups of classrooms also are separated by grade level.
Eighth-grade students will take the majority of their classes on the first floor, sixth-graders will get the second floor and seventh-graders will take classes on the third floor, meaning most students can walk from one classroom to the next in under a minute.
That wasn’t the case in the former middle school. While sixth-grade students had classes in the same area, a seventh- or eighth-grade student would often have to walk to the other side of school for the next class, and only be given four minutes to do that.
Placing all of classes together by grade level not only makes it much simpler for students to get from class to class, but it also allows for better communication between teachers in each grade, as they can talk before and after classes and have convenient conference rooms on each level, Pritchett said.
At the former middle school, the band and choir rooms had been placed among classrooms, and students had to take a break from band and choir during testing weeks in order to not be disruptive, Pritchett said.
Now, those rooms are in their own section, along with the three-court gym, lockers, wrestling room and other activities.
School officials are ready to put aside many of the issues they had to deal with in the old school.
During the last day of classes for the soon to be former Greenwood Community Middle School, a burst in a water pipe in the six-decade old building flooded a classroom.
The spill was an example of the issues with maintaining the building as school officials faced significant costs to keep up with repairs for heating, cooling, utilities and other infrastructure.
The middle school building on Madison Avenue in downtown Greenwood had simply outlived its usefulness, Pritchett said.
Because the school district is landlocked, it isn’t expecting an influx of new students, but it is still prepared for more. The school currently has about 900 middle school students and the new middle school could seat up to 1,200 comfortably, Sutton said.
The main gymnasium has seating for 1,600, more than enough for both staff and students to come together for an event, he said.
The $27.2 million building is expected to be built on budget, Pritchett said.
Because early bids for the work came in low, an additional athletic building with an concession stand, public restrooms and locker rooms to be used by some of the sports teams will be built as well, he said.
That will allow the football team as well as the girls and boys track and field teams to have separate lockerrooms and not have to use the lockerrooms used by physical education classes, he said.
An eight-lane track will also allow the middle school to host track meets, something it wasn’t able to do before with only two lanes.
The project was paid for with a $43 million loan which covered the middle school, a new high school athletics complex, an improved HVAC system at Northeast Elementary and improvements to the high school pool and gyms. The money will be paid back in 20 years, beginning in 2018. The school district didn’t have to raise taxes to cover the projects.
Picking up and dropping off students, which was a nightmare with the school on Madison Avenue, will become much easier, Sutton said.
Buses will only operate on the north side of the school, while parents can drop-off kids on the south side. The south parking lot with about 600 spots will also have an outside loop for drivers, which will help prevent congestion in the parking lot, he said.
The entrance to the parking lot, off Stop 18 Road, may someday have a roundabout at Averitt Road, rather than four-way stop signs. Greenwood recently commission a traffic study for that section of Averitt Road in light of the traffic needs of the Freedom Springs Aquatic Center, middle school and proposed ice-rink complex.
The new Greenwood Middle School building is set to open in time for the beginning of the school year. Here’s a look at some of the details of the new facility:
Location: Averitt Road near Freedom Park
Size: 160,000 square feet
Capacity: 1,200 students
Cost: $27.2 million
First classes: July 31