BOE tours 2 new schools

COVINGTON - Earlier this week, members of the Newton County Board of Education got a first look at two nearly finished schools that the Newton County School System will open for the new school year.

The board members, along with several NCSS staff members, took a tour of Liberty Middle School on Salem Road and Live Oak Elementary School on Kirkland Road on Tuesday afternoon.

"We appreciate the hard work and dedication of those involved with the building projects," school board Chair C.C. Bates said. "The facilities look phenomenal, and the only thing that will make them look better is seeing them filled with teachers and students."

At Liberty, board members were greeted by school Principal Victor Lee, who showed off some of the school's 66 classrooms, administration area, gym, cafeteria and media center.

"For Liberty, we look forward to utilizing our architect's new design for the middle school's facilities," said NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley. "The design incorporates all the administration, cafeteria, media and connections classrooms on the ground level."

Each room has active boards, which stream information through the computers and allow students to use new technology to participate in classwork. They also feature mobile stations and desks for teachers and students.

While in the technology lab, students will work on a new generation of computers that are smaller and use 60 percent less energy than regular desktop computers.

"We're trying to reduce the energy costs in an attempt to use new technology because technology uses a lot of energy," said Dr. Gary Shattuck, director of Technology and Media Services at NCSS.

Even the band room incorporates new technologies - aside from a sound system with recording capabilities, band students will sit in posture chairs that make them sit up straight while playing their instruments in order to use proper breathing techniques.

The school plans to open with more than 900 students. The school's sixth-grade class, which will be housed on the bottom level of the school building, is double the size of the seventh- and eighth-grade classes combined.

At Live Oak, school administrators greeted the tour group with refreshments and a quick tour around the school building.

School Principal Ericka Anderson, who comes from West Newton Elementary School, showed off some of the 57 classrooms, the cafeteria and media center.

Like Liberty, the school also will use active boards in classrooms to introduce the young students to the new technologies that many of the previous classes haven't had a chance to use.

It is the second elementary school in Newton County to have two levels. Children in prekindergarten through second grades will attend classes on the upstairs level, while those in third through fifth grades will find themselves on the downstairs level.

"The design and layout of Live Oak mirrors that of South Salem Elementary, which was opened this past school year," Whatley said. "We have found it to be a highly functional design for our elementary schools."

Anderson said the school plans to open with about 975 students. Its core capacity will serve 1,000 students, with enough land on campus to expand to accommodate 1,500 if necessary.

Both schools will open to students on Aug. 3 for the first day of the 2009-10 school year.

"These two school designs and quality have resulted in facilities this community can be proud of," Whatley said.

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