For 28 years, Jane Lengeric walked through the doors of the building that’s been known as Greenwood Middle School since 1949.
“It feels like home,” she said. “It is where my very first day of teaching happened and it was where my very first job was.”
But Monday, Lengeric and other teachers who have spent more than 25 years at the school, are teaching their first classes in the new $27 million Greenwood Middle School, located off Averitt Road near Freedom Park.
Wider halls, new technology and updated science labs make up the 160,000-square-foot school, which is 20,000 square feet bigger than the old middle school.
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“Newness always adds excitement for everybody involved,” said Tim Welch, who has taught at Greenwood Middle School for 31 years. “The building we were in served its purpose but it was time to make improvements.”
Middle school students will no longer have to share their football and track facilities with the high school students, and the new wrestling room is much larger and nicer than the old one — both improvements Welch, who is the wrestling coach, said he is excited for.
Down the hall from Welch’s room on the second floor of the school, students walk into a well-lit, large room filled with desks, refrigerators, stoves and other items necessary to teach family and consumer sciences.
Karen Begley, the 38-year-family and consumer science teacher, felt nostalgic leaving the other building, but she is excited for everything her new classroom has to offer.
“It’s so light, airy, fresh and clean,” she said. “It’s a much better place for kids to learn and grow. My room is beautiful with brand new kitchens that are gorgeous.”
A new addition to the family and consumer science department is a kitchen with lower countertops so those in wheelchairs are able to participate in the hands-on activities, like baking.
Some other hands-on classes at the middle school are taught by Chris Campbell, shop teacher, who has taught at the middle school for seven years and taught at the high school for 23 years.
His classroom is set up in two parts — a technology lab and a shop area. The technology lab is set up with different computers where students will work with modules or create robotics projects. The other part of his room will use household tools and students will create items out of different materials, like wood.
Campbell said he is excited for the extra room he has to do more STEAM based activities. The school as a whole, which can house 1,100 students, was designed around STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — to allow more hands-on activities that engage students with better learning opportunities at all grade levels.
Penny Aldrige, who has taught sixth-grade science for 25 years, only had one sink at the old school, which kept her students from being able to do a lot of hands-on activities. Now, she has sinks at each of the eight lab stations.
“It’s going to help a lot because it is hands on and we can do more group activities,” Aldrige said. “This opens up a lot of room for creativity and room to do projects.”
Below the eight work stations, cabinets allow for greater storage of supplies in her room.
Still, after teaching in the same building for 25 years, Aldridge said it was bittersweet to leave.
“For the kids, this is better, this is what they needed,” she said. “But after being in the building for 25 years, the older you get, the harder the change is so it was a little emotional leaving.”