Hall County Schools is rolling along on a slate of construction projects, including the new Cherokee Bluff Middle School, six new learning commons across the district, new turf installations and Johnson High School’s new performing arts center.
Cherokee Bluff Middle School will hold 1,500 students starting next fall. So far, the building’s structure is up, and the roofing is nearing completion, said David Loudermilk, who is a construction manager with Parrish Construction working on the site.
“The outside looks like a school now,” Loudermilk said.
The $44 million project was funded by a voter-approved bond resolution last summer. Hall County Schools Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Matt Cox estimated that the school is about 50% complete at this stage.
Cox also shared updates on the new Johnson High School performing arts center, which he said should be completed next summer. The new $9 million theater will seat about 435 people and include a classroom for theater and drama classes, so that the theater doesn’t have to be used for all instruction.
“It’s going to be a better layout,” Cox said. “The old performing arts center was built without enough back-of-house space. We did not have a large enough stage. We didn’t have support spaces like storage and wings to the stage — all those different pieces.”
It will tie together the gymnasium and the main building, he said, so that the lobby for the performing arts center will act as an events lobby for the gym as well.
The West Hall High School performing arts center is still in early design stages, Cox said.
The county is also on schedule to complete new learning commons this summer for Sugar Hill Elementary, Martin Elementary, Mount Vernon Elementary, Spout Springs Elementary, Lula Elementary, East Hall High School and Chestatee High School. These learning commons are part of Phase II of the district’s learning commons plan.
The commons are tailored to their respective schools, said Aaron Turpin, Hall County School District’s Assistant Superintendent of Technology. For example Martin Elementary will have specific spaces for video broadcasting and podcast production, Sugar Hill Elementary will have a large makerspace, and Chestatee High School will have e-course areas for students taking college-level calculus through Georgia Tech.
All of them will be equipped with movable furniture, Clear Touch screens, televisions and spaces for group work.
Though these learning commons won’t have quite as many books as in the past, Turpin said that the spaces are still focused on literacy and have both stationary and mobile bookshelves. The spaces will also include collaborative areas with adjustable LED lighting, so students in one area could have lower lighting to conduct a presentation using a Clear Touch screen, while another group could select brighter lighting for reading.
“Each of these spaces at the elementary schools has a video broadcast space and by incorporating these into the learning commons, they can now be used throughout the day where oftentimes they would only be used for morning announcements,” Turpin said.
All learning commons will have a larger footprint than previous media centers or libraries, Turpin said, because they won’t need as much storage space for certain older technology.
“When these schools were built, these libraries were built for a different time and instruction,” he said. “Our goal for these designs is to be flexible for the next 30 years”