The old South Hall High School building erected in the late 1950s has entered into the 21st century with a new face: A digital face and two-tiered sanctuary for students.
The old outdoor courtyard at the building — now called the Academies of Discovery, housing the DaVinci Academy of Choice and World Language Academy charter school — evolved into an arena full of modern architecture, comfortable lounge chairs and high technology.
At the Monday meeting of the Hall County Board of Education, the new Learning Commons of the Discovery Academies was dedicated while students presented tours and baked goods.
“Eight years ago, we asked the board to be willing to do something different. Things are different and the world has changed,” said Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield.
Facing a disconnect with students, Schofield escorted in the idea of digital technology coupled with teaching tools.
“(Learning Commons) is designed as a theater with a digital backdrop,” said Aaron Turpin, executive director of technology for Hall County Schools, “We took (the courtyard and existing building) down to the slab ... to build it.”
The facility opened Jan. 3 to meet the structural and digital needs of 21st-century students.
“It was a muddy hole in the ground four months ago,” said Mitch Murphy, building administrator/assistant principal for DaVinci and World Language facilities.
“Overall, it is an amazing feat.”
He said it was “the right place, the right time and the right kids” for the Learning Commons.
One DaVinci student, Rebecca Hilliard, 14, said her first impression of the new commons is how modern it is.
Lime-colored lounge chairs surround the strategically placed round tables on the top level.
Students find computers or plug-ins for personal computers under a flap on the table and can immediately view their work on a large screen.
“Gathering around the tables saves time when working on projects together,” said Andrew Arrowood, 14, also a DaVinci Academy student.
He was working on an anti-bullying project for a Georgia website competition at the commons table. Arrowood aspires to work in quantum physics.
For Larken White, 13, it was “bewilderment” for the new commons area. “It was really cool — not just super special — but something to brag about.”
White’s passion right now includes football but also the ability to design video games.
The board also recognized Samsung, EDA, Panasonic and other organizations, both local and international, for their contributions to the Learning Commons.
The board's retreat on March 8 and 9 also was discussed.
Schofield said topics will include safety and security planning, communication concerns and high school completion and dropout rates.
"We need to look at what we are calling high school graduation," said Schofield.
He said the board will be checking the Hall County achievement data during the retreat.