Nearing completion
School set to open for 2008-09 school year

COVINGTON - On the outside, mud and gravel surround much of the new South Salem Elementary School, and on the inside, ceiling tiles and furniture are still missing, but the building is starting to look more like a school every day.

The Newton County Board of Education took its first tour of the grounds Monday afternoon to see the progress being made for the school that is scheduled to be open in time for the start of the 2008-09 school year.

Much of the work left to be completed includes pouring the entrance drive, landscaping, placing ceiling tiles and some flooring, touch-up painting and furnishing, among other minor tasks.

Construction on the $18 million site broke ground in the summer. Carroll Daniel Construction Company is in charge of building the elementary school as well as the adjacent middle school, Liberty Middle, which is scheduled to open for the 2009-10 school year.

The 116,000-square-foot elementary school, which is funded primarily through SPLOST II funds, is built to hold 1,000 students in classrooms, and the grounds have the room to expand to fit 1,500.

"The core facilities - like the media center and the cafeteria - are already designed to handle 1,500 (students) because those things are difficult to expand," said Ray Moore, owner of the architectural firm Cunningham, Forehand, Matthews & Moore Architects Inc.

The multi-level school building includes 55 regular education classrooms - 11 kindergarten rooms, 10 rooms for first, second and third grades, and seven rooms for fourth and fifth grades - as well as speciality classroom areas. This is 10 more classrooms than Newton County's four newest elementary schools - Rocky Plains, Oak Hill, Middle Ridge and West Newton.

The new school also has four special education classrooms, teacher workrooms and separate art, music and computer rooms, as well as a gym with two basketball goals.

Unlike many other elementary schools, and even some middle and high schools, South Salem has a few special features, including bathrooms in special education rooms, two general computer labs and an elevator for special needs individuals, as it is one of the few multi-level schools in the county.

It also has some energy-efficient features. The media center and adjacent cafeteria include skylights at the top of the rooms.

"I like these windows because it lets in a lot of natural light," board member Cathy Dobbs said.

Moore said the rooms were designed as such so the school didn't have to only depend on lighting; he didn't want to let in too much sunlight, though.

"(The skylights) aren't on the west side (of the building) because it would really heat up (the cafeteria)," he said.

Also, the cafeteria has open beams as the ceiling, rather than a filled-in, flat ceiling. Moore said putting in the beams were more economic and efficient because it is relatively faster to construct and low-maintenance and allows for use of the skylights.

He said the ceiling panels are "insulated just as good as any other roof," so that isn't a concern.

The outside of the school includes parking for faculty in the front of the school, a fenced-in play area for students and several green spaces.

Most, if not all, of the work on the new elementary school should be completed by mid- to late May.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.