With the flip of 10 shovels adorned in purple and white ribbons, a group of Cherokee Bluff sixth graders marked the symbolic beginning to construction on the school system’s newest school building Thursday morning.
The hardhat-wearing students, who currently attend classes in the Cherokee Bluff High School building, were given the first opportunity to break ground for the new Cherokee Bluff Middle School, set to open for the 2022-2023 school year. The sixth graders will attend as eighth graders in the school’s first year.
“Knowing that the building will be finished when I’m in eighth grade and getting to have my last year of middle school there makes me excited,” said Emery Jones, one of the students invited to participate in the groundbreaking. “The new building means we will get a new space to ourselves with more room and better classrooms. We will be the first to try out new features, and since we are still a really new school, being first in the building means we will be part of school history.”
The Hall County School District will begin actual construction on the $44 million project – funded by the voter-approved bond resolution passed this summer – at a later date, according to district spokesman Stan Lewis.
Superintendent Will Schofield, who spoke at the event, said the groundbreaking and the building of the new school was just the latest example of the Hall County community “putting its resources where its mouth is.”
"And where their mouth is and where their heart is is the next generation,” he said. “This is just an incredible step forward for this community, building this middle school. It’s an exciting day for Hall County, and most importantly an exciting day for the children.”
Schofield said the district chose to have students be the first to move dirt on the site of the new school because the project is ultimately for them, and he wanted to see that reflected symbolically.
“I love educators,” he said. “I love education. But one of the things we sometimes get backwards, is we forget that it’s not about the adults. It’s not about the parents. It’s not about the superintendent. It’s about the boys and girls.”
After the students had a chance to toss dirt, Cherokee Bluff Middle School employees and then district administrators and board members took their turn with the shovels.
School board chairman Craig Herrington said that while the building of the school itself is a big step for the district, he is more excited about the people at the groundbreaking event who will one day fill it – including the 10 sixth graders in attendance.
“We’re going to have a beautiful facility once it’s completed, but at that point, it is still going to be just a beautiful building,” he said. “However, when we bring the staff and our students back in and they start bringing their own personalities in, the building will become alive, and that’s when we will become a school."
Cherokee Bluff Middle School principal Robert Wilson said it was a surreal experience to be at the groundbreaking for the new school that was just an idea three years ago.
He said the values of innovation, integrity, respect and community service – which are already guiding principles for the school – will continue to be the focus as Cherokee Bluff Middle School students make the transition to the new building.
“The community, the school board, the superintendent, what their investment in this community means to me personally is to be able to continue with those values,” he said. “To be able to instill those in students moving forward in a state-of-the-art facility is just really phenomenal to even think about.”