“The lights are on,” Long County School Superintendent Dr. Robert Waters told the Courier Wednesday during a tour of the system’s new school off Highway 84.
Waters reiterated classes will begin in Long County on Aug. 1. He confirmed progress on construction slowed this summer due to thunderstorms in late June, adding that the contractor has assured him the building would be ready for students.
Waters likened the beehive of activity at the construction site to his seemingly unorganized office desk. It may not look orderly, he said, but he can locate every file.
The superintendent estimated more than 100 construction workers were on site. Inside, electricians were running wires, painters applied additional coats to walls and other laborers installed glass in administrative offices. Outside, workers were on rooftops and atop hydraulic lifts underneath archways.
The school district bought the 75-acre site for $5,000 an acre, “a good price,” according to Waters. He added that acreage has been set aside for physical education fields.
Waters expects paving from Elim Church Road to Highway 84 to be completed this week.
The superintendent said the Long County Board of Commissioners is helping with the turning lane by using state funds for its construction.
“It’s the board of education’s project, but the Georgia Department of Transportation is giving $200,000 for the project, which will be funneled through the commissioners, since GDOT is unable to directly present the board of education with the money,” Long County Administrator Frank Etheridge explained.
The 215,000-square foot building houses McClelland Elementary and Long County Middle Schools.
Hallways lead off from the school’s center like wheel spokes. McClelland serves students in third, fourth and fifth grades, and the middle school has sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
The building has 98 classrooms and other spaces that can be converted into classrooms, such as computer labs, to accommodate growth, Waters said.
He estimates both schools will start the 2018-19 school year with 800-850 students, a combined total of about 1,735 students.
Waters said each school has a media center, with Chromebooks and traditional books at McClelland and ports for computers at LCMS.
The 8,000-square foot cafeteria will have five food lines and a “pizza store,” he said.
There are teacher workrooms on every hall, along with classrooms designated for music, art and home skills for special needs students.
Waters pointed out the “Blue Tide” architectural feature in the middle school, and wide strips of blue on the floor and walls to complement the school’s theme.
The middle school will have a gym with bleachers, and the elementary school will have a multi-purpose room without bleachers, to be used for PE, he said. During the tour, a worker was sealing the wall in the multipurpose room to protect it from wet weather and prevent leaks.
The superintendent expects the building to be officially turned over to the district Monday. Teacher pre-planning begins July 25. Open houses are scheduled for July 30 from 2-5 p.m. for elementary students, and July 31 from 3-5 p.m. for middle-schoolers.
The district received $27.1 million in state funding for the school, and about 65 percent of voters approved the $3 million bond referendum in support of the construction project in May 2015.
School officials began planning the project more than four years ago, according to Waters.
“I saw the growth coming,” he said.