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Oakwood Elementary teachers get amazing new lounge
Dean Stringer of Stringer Builders Inc., puts the finishing touches on a cabinet Thursdsay inside the new teacher lounge at Oakwood Elementary School. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Oakwood Elementary School is getting a morale boost.

Just days before the school doors open, teachers are receiving a new lounge, complete with cabinets and a new paint job.

“This is going to be amazing,” said Assistant Principal Cyndy Crites as she looked at the new room. “We’ve never had a place to do professional development, and it’s incredible when you know where they’ve been eating.”

The new lounge, which is unused classroom space this year, now features a bulletin board, light blue walls, a kitchen sink and a microwave. The area will also serve as a “data room,” where administrators will post state test results on the bulletin board by grade level.

“You can imagine how the teachers feel going from this to that,” Crites said while standing in an old lounge. “Now more than six teachers can sit together, and they can sit with different grade levels. When Principal Shane Rayburn announced it Tuesday, you could see their faces get excited.”

Blackshear Place Baptist Church and Dean Stringer of Stringer Builders Inc. took on the project, creating a new lounge like the one they renovated at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School last summer.

“About 80 percent of Hall County Schools need remodeling, and this is a good way to show teachers we care about them in a tangible way,” said Jason Nave, pastor of missions and pastoral care at Blackshear. “We plan to do this every summer, and we’re already looking for next year’s school.”

The room is bigger than both of the old teacher areas combined. One space, previously a storage room, could hold a refrigerator and a couple of tables. The other area, just behind the front office, held a microwave but had no seating space. Teachers often ate in their classrooms and washed dishes in the bathroom.

“We’re trying to make an environment where teachers can go in and have a break,” Nave said. “They need a place to hang out and just relax somewhere comfortable.”

Oakwood’s teacher lounge is just one change in a list of maintenance needs for both city and county school systems this summer.

Hall County Schools were able to brush up on athletic fields, particularly at the high schools. Officials saved money by placing new bids on pine straw and landscaping.

Gainesville City Schools focused on roof repairs at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy and Wood’s Mill Academy. When classes ended in May, Superintendent Merrianne Dyer and the school board worried that roofing and plumbing work at Enota wouldn’t be completed before classes began. Though teachers had to work around the construction schedule this summer, all maintenance work was completed this week.

“We work hard all the time, but this summer we stepped it up,” maintenance director Keith Vincent told the board Monday. “We’ve been teaching skills to the crew and can do things now that we used to contract out, such as putting down floor tile. It may take longer but they get better and faster with each job. They’re proud of it.”