Nearly a year before opening their doors in August 2018, Hall County Schools’ seventh middle and high schools now have a name.
By a 3-1 vote, the school board approved a recommendation by Superintendent Will Schofield Monday night to name the schools Cherokee Bluff or Cherokee Bluffs, giving Wes McGee, principal of the new high school, and others working on the plans the option of using the word in singular or plural depending on the selection of the mascot.
McGee said after the meeting it was a “relief to know that we actually have a name for the school now.”
“It’s extremely exciting,” he said. “This was probably the No. 1 question we got. It’s extremely important to start the schools, so I really appreciate the board taking time to make a thoughtful decision.”
The vote brings an end to speculation on the name for the middle and high schools that will open on the site where Flowery Branch High School now sits. Potential names were suggested about six months ago, according to Schofield.
Residents who live in the attendance zone for the new schools, as well as faculty and staff at Johnson and Flowery Branch high schools, were given the opportunity to vote on name suggestions last month with Cherokee Bluffs and Spout Springs getting most of the votes.
Schofield said at a work session earlier this month that the name Spout Springs actually received more votes, but he and others had concerns there could be some confusion since not all students at Spout Springs Elementary are in the attendance zone for the new schools.
Board Chairman Nath Morris voted against the proposed name, and board member Bill Thompson was absent from the meeting.
“It’s just personal,” Morris said of his vote. “Obviously I’m supportive of what the board does. I know we had a process and there were a couple of names out there, and I really didn’t feel comfortable.”
Morris didn’t say whether he would have supported the Spout Springs name, adding, “that wasn’t brought to us as an option.”
“The recommendation was Cherokee Bluff or Bluffs, but I’m 100 percent behind it,” he added. “That, I think, is what the school community feels like they want and the board did, so I’m 100 percent behind it.”
Cherokee Bluffs Park is located near the Sterling on the Lake community, where residents had sought unsuccessfully to be included in the attendance zone for the new schools. Craig Lutz, a resident of that community, expressed concern about the name at the earlier work session since the park is also not in the attendance zone.
The new middle and high schools are designed to help relieve crowded conditions in South Hall. Flowery Branch High will move back to its former building where Davis Middle School is now located, and Davis will move back to its former home where South Hall Middle sits. South Hall is moving back to its original location at the Academies of Discovery.
McGee has begun preparations for the opening of school next fall. He has already hired Kenny Hill, a current assistant principal at Flowery Branch High School, as his athletic director. Hill is continuing in his current job while also planning for the athletic program at the new middle and high schools.
“We’re looking at mascots and some colors; we are just in the beginning process,” McGee said. “We’ll contact some parents, and we want to have them involved. We’ve asked some faculty and staff in both Johnson High School and Flowery Branch High School, because they are familiar with the different parents through associations there, to give us some names that would be good people to have on a committee. So, that’s how we’re going to kind of move forward to select those.”
When asked about his timeline for a mascot and colors, McGee said “soon.”
“There is no timeline other than soon,” he said. “As the board reflected on it and put some careful and thoughtful decision into the name of the school, we would like to do the same thing, rather than rushing into it. This is important. We want to make sure it’s the right mascot and the right colors.”
Schofield said earlier this month he expects to recommend a new principal for the middle school in December or January.