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Principal excited about new school

OXFORD -- After working at two of the oldest schools in Newton County for the past seven years, Lori Thomas is excited about now being in the newest school in the county.

Thomas, who had been principal at Palmer-Stone Elementary School since 2008 and was assistant principal at Ficquett Elementary School for about four years before that, will serve as principal of the new Flint Hill Elementary School. All students from Palmer-Stone and some from East Newton and Ficquett elementary schools will attend the new school this year, and staff members from Palmer-Stone and some other schools around the county will join them.

"It's amazing," Thomas said of the new school that sits on Airport Road in north Oxford. "It's different being in a facility 60 years old and being in a brand new one. We're very spoiled here and thankful that the county has put in so much time, money and effort in it."

She said the biggest difference will be the technology.

At Palmer-Stone, the school was equipped with about 10 interactive boards and a computer lab. Now, Flint Hill, which is entirely wireless, will have 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. The school also has two computer labs, and fifth-graders may even get email accounts.

"There's lots of technology," Thomas said.

Teachers also will have work rooms, conference room space and two adult bathrooms per grade level, compared to Palmer-Stone, which only had one adult bathroom facility in the entire school.

Classrooms also have hand washing and water fountain stations, energy efficient lighting and some have views of peaceful pastures.

"When you've been in an old school, it's the little things that you appreciate," Thomas said.

The gym also is about twice the size of the one at Palmer-Stone, which had stained carpet from flooding.

"It had character; it was old," Thomas said. "Everything smells brand new (in the new school)."

She also hopes to keep the relationship with Oxford College enjoyed by Palmer-Stone -- the students would ride their bikes across the street to tutor at Palmer-Stone, and the elementary school would use their campus for activities like the Easter egg hunt and field days.

"(The college) still wants to partner with us," Thomas said. "Hopefully, we'll still have a really close relationship with them."

School staff members have been in and out of the new building for the past several days getting classrooms ready, supplies organized and everything situated, and parents and students got a first look at the school last week during a sneak peak.

"The kids were excited, smiley and happy, and the parents were just in awe," Thomas said. "They're all really excited."