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JME Superstars show off entirely renovated school
Joseph Martin Elementary.
Liberty County Board of Education members get a look at one of the redone classrooms at Joseph Martin Elementary. Photo by Pat Donahue

One of Liberty County’s older elementary schools is brand new on the inside.

School and school system officials showed off the renovated Joseph Martin Elementary on Wednesday morning, displaying the more than $3 million in upgrades and fixes throughout the school.

“We renovated the complete school,” said design architect Casey Smith with Cogdell and Mendrala, the architecture firm hired to do the work. “There was not one area that wasn’t renovated. It’s a whole new school on the inside. Every square inch you see today was touched.”

JME Principal Kevin VanHouten praised his faculty and staff for getting their classrooms back in order quickly and for the start of the 2023-24 school year.

“They rolled up their sleeves and put their classrooms back together just in time for the first day of school,” he said.

There are 677 new lighting fixtures, and the new LED lights also will cut down on the school’s electricity bill, so much so that VanHouten anticipates a rebate of more than $40,000.

Along with the new LED lighting are new flooring, fresh paint, new bathrooms and fixtures, new ceiling tiles and a new teachers’ lounge.

Work on the school’s media center and gymnasium began during spring break, and when the school year ended in May, contractors turned their attention to the rest of the campus, which opened in 1988 — and they had to get done before students came back in early August.

“We did not delay the stop and start of school,” Smith said. “I basically lived here during the summer.”

JME fifth-grader Liza Broughman noted she was a frequent visitor to the school before she was enrolled in it, with two older siblings who went there.

“So I visited this school for many years before I was even in kindergarten,” she said.

Broughman also said her favorite parts of the renovations were the painted murals in the gym and the new countertops and automatic sinks in the restrooms.

“I also really like the yellow stars on the floor in the hallways,” she said, “and the superstar mural in the cafeteria is awesome.”

VanHouten expressed his gratitude to the school’s parents and its community members.

“Without their support, we would not be the school we are today,” he said.

School system officials also pointed to the importance of the education special local option sales tax, which funded the $3.2 million project. ESPLOST proceeds also funded the $3.8 million renovation to be unveiled at Liberty Elementary tonight.

“We expect excellence from our students — we have to give them excellence in everything we do,” said Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry.

School board chair Verdell Jones pointed out her two daughters attended Joseph Martin and she visited so much back then, she was even part of the yearbook.

“The renovations at our schools, to make sure our children have a pleasant, state-of-the-art place to learn would not have happened without the members of our community who supported E-SPLOST,” she said.

Added Smith, “Seeing those little kids come in the door and seeing something new is what it’s all about.”

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