Over the past school year, Hall County Schools has taken some of the first steps of its 10-year facilities plan.
The $258 million lineup of projects was first introduced to the public by Hall’s school board on in August 2019. It designates funds for building Cherokee Bluff Middle school, adding an agri-business center, replacing seven elementary schools with four, and renovations and construction at Lyman Hall Elementary, Sardis Elementary and Johnson High School.
Cherokee Bluff Middle School
Construction has already begun for the new $44 million Cherokee Bluff Middle School, which is anticipated to open in fall 2022.
Matt Cox, Hall’s executive director of facilities and construction, said the building will encompass 209,700 square feet and sit on the current Cherokee Bluff Middle/High’s 138-acre property. It will house students rising from Friendship Elementary, Spout Springs Elementary, Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry and Myers Elementary.
“It is making tremendous progress,” Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said. “We’re certainly excited about what that’s going to do for growing that corridor.”
New elementary schools
The 10-year plan also allots $109 million to build four new elementary schools to replace seven: McEver Arts Academy, Myers Elementary, Oakwood Elementary, Riverbend Elementary, White Sulphur Elementary, Tadmore Elementary and World Language Academy.
So far, the district has only revealed its intentions to combine Riverbend with White Sulphur. Cox said the project has a late fall 2021 ground breaking date, which hasn’t been finalized yet, and is expected to open to students in fall 2023. The system has already purchased 31 acres of land on Ramsey Road near Ga. 365 for the new elementary campus location.
Schofield explained that the two reasons behind demolishing and rebuilding the schools stemmed from their age and outdated design. Around 50-70 years ago, the schools were built for 400 students. The average student population at the district’s elementary schools is around 500. The four new school buildings have an anticipated capacity of around 1,000 students.
“Some of the exciting things about replacing two of these schools with one is that they're extremely small at the current time in terms of their enrollment,” Schofield said. “ … And, some are 50 to 70 years old. Quite honestly, even though we’ve got a maintenance department I’d put up against anybody, they just have become more work than they’re worth. We just really look forward to updating that elementary fleet over the next three to four to five years.”
Schofield said plans for the remaining five elementary schools have yet to be confirmed. As for the name of the first new elementary school, he said the system will receive community input before making a final decision.
“We’ll try to come up with something that takes into account that we’re bringing two very distinct and proud heritages together, and at the same time, speaks about something new,” Schofield said.
The system is also picking up on the heritage of the area with another project.
The sound of buzzing and mooing will soon be heard in North Hall with the development of a 51-acre working farm designated to teach lessons in agri-business to middle and high schoolers. During the fall of 2020, Hall closed on the plot of land priced at $775,000. Schofield said this spring the district will start bringing in cattle to the land as well as 20 hives of bees.
“It’s going to be a real opportunity in an enjoyable way to open all of our students’ eyes to the power of agriculture in our state and in our lives,” he said.
The school system is working out its plans for constructing a barn to house the cattle and restrooms and a space where people can check into the farm. The ultimate goal of the property, Schofield said, would be to build an Agribusiness Center. The 10-year facilities plan designates $4 million toward erecting this building.
For the future of the site, Schofield said he envisions it to not only house cows for students to use for cattle shows but a genetics operation. He said students will be able to learn about artificial insemination and embryo transplants.
“We want to offer world glass genetics to this community and Georgia agriculture at large,” Schofield said. “This is more than having a few calves munching on grass.”