A huge crowd turned out Thursday evening, Jan. 10, for the official grand opening of the new Graysville Elementary School, including students and former students, the principal and former principals, parents, and all the officials one might expect. The Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce was on hand for a formal ribbon-cutting.

The school is truly new, said Principal Kerri Sholl, who was a student at Graysville, then a teacher, vice principal and finally principal. “We have a new building, new desks, equipment, televisions, phone system, everything.”

Something else the school has that’s new is a spiral slide going from the second floor to the first. “I knew of a school in Atlanta that had one,” said Sholl, “and I wanted one here.” Sholl mentioned the slide to Superintendent Denia Reese, who thought it was a great idea.

But when Sholl presented to idea to the architects, they weren’t so sure. We don’t put slides inside schools, they told Sholl. Sholl told them Mrs. Reese liked the idea and the architect said, “It looks like we’re going to put in a slide.”

Shortly before the new school went into use, Sholl took teachers on a tour of it, one grade level at a time. “Each time, I asked the teachers if they wanted to go down the slide and almost every one of them did,” she said.

The slide, said Sholl, is not used for regular transportation from the top to the bottom of the school. “We use is as a reward for good behavior.” There’s an elevator, too, for the more dignified.

The cost of the entire project, which is actually still in progress, is $13.5 million, paid for with ESPLOST V funds. The new building consists of 48,782 square feet, which includes 21 classrooms, a media center and, said Sholl, a new and much safer area for buses to drop children off and pick them up.

Part of the old building will be demolished and removed, but part of it, which ties in with the new school, is being renovated and will include the gymnasium, cafeteria, music room and classrooms for kindergarten and first grade. All buildings will have new metal roofs. The final phase of the project will be the installation of a new playground.

“I feel so privileged,” said Sholl, “to work in a system with a superintendent and board that want the best, safest schools for students. Everyone has been wonderful about all this — the architects, DH&W, the contractors, EMJ Corporation, and parents who were so patient and understanding about having to park across the street and walk over to the school while construction was going on.”

“This beautiful new building is here today because our community continues to support ESPLOST,” said Catoosa Schools Superintendent Denia Reese, “to provide world-class learning facilities for our children. Benjamin Franklin said, ‘An investment in knowledge yields the best dividends.’ The Board of Education and I cannot thank the public enough for investing in the future by providing great schools for our students to learn in today. With everyone’s support, we are developing students who will be good citizens and leaders of the future.”