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New digs: Board takes tour of school

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Jeff Medors checking out one of the desks in one of the class rooms. The desks were desinged by teachers for teachers.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Jeff Medors checking out one of the desks in one of the class rooms. The desks were desinged by teachers for teachers.

OXFORD -- The Newton County Board of Education members got their first look inside the county's newest school this week.

School board members took a tour of the school on Tuesday afternoon. The school, which is located on Airport Road in Oxford, opened last week for the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.

"The school is amazing; it's so nice," said school board member Abigail Coggin. "I felt at home. The layout is great, and the technology is amazing. I was blown away."

The two-story building is 157,700 square feet and has a capacity of 1,500 students.

Coggin said she knew some parents were worried about their children coming from smaller schools like Palmer Stone and East Newton elementary schools to a larger school like Flint Hill, but she thinks those worries are now subsided.

"After touring the facility and talking to the staff, I think it's an amazing school," Coggin said. "The kids will be safe and will benefit from the technology."

The school is made up of 96 instructional spaces, including 90 classrooms, two art rooms, two music rooms, one media center and a physical education area.

"The floor plan of the school is very similar to both South Salem Elementary School and Live Oak Elementary School," said Michael Barr, director of Support Services at the Newton County School System.

The school also has several special features.

"The school has a number of features designed to increase energy efficiency, such as room sensors to turn off lights and air conditioning when classrooms and other spaces are not occupied, electronic ballasts and energy efficient light bulbs and improved wall and roof insulation," Barr said. "Additionally, the school sites meets all (Environmental Protection Division) requirements for water runoff and erosion control and utilizes biocells that are designed to infiltrate storm water back into the ground and water table, as opposed to letting it run off the site."

High efficiency boilers and water heaters, as well as waterless urinals, also are installed in the school, he said.

Additionally, the school is entirely wireless and has interactive boards in each classroom, as well as iPads, iPods, netbooks, voting machines, laptops and four student computers and a teacher computer on their own server in each classroom. The school also has two computer labs, and fifth-graders may even get email accounts this year.

"It will amaze me what these kids in Pre-K and kindergarten who start off there will be able to do and to see what they learned by the time they get into fifth grade," Coggin said.

The budget for the project was about $15 million, but the actual project cost $13,257,000, Barr said. It was funded through SPLOST funds, which only can be used for construction of specific projects that were previously voted on by the community.

Ricks Contractors Inc. out of Buford was the general contractor of the project.

The school sits on more than 80 acres of land in north Newton County. Barr said NCSS has not yet finalized plans for the remaining part of the site; in the past, architects have discussed with the school board building another school, sports fields, a stadium or transportation facilities on the site.