Calhoun City Schools is moving forward with construction plans for the Calhoun Early Learning Academy, the school system announced this week.
Demolition of the 1967 Eastside School Building (pre-K) will take place in the coming weeks. The opening of the new central office on South Wall Street, this past October, was one step closer to ensuring that two, three and four year old students will be in a safer environment, more conducive to learning, explained Jennie Coker, school and community relations director.
The central office staff moved with the pre-K students from the old Line Street School building on West Line to the old Eastside School building in 2004 when the district opened the primary and elementary complex. This move was intended to be temporary, but with the downturn in the economy in 2008 and other factors, the central office continued to co-habitate with the pre-kindergarten program. Housing both central office staff and pre-K in one building had its challenges, said Coker.
“The Eastside School Building was constructed in 1967 during a time when open classrooms were thought to be a way to encourage collaboration, spark creativity and critical thinking among students as well as teachers,” she said. “What school districts found to be true was that there’s not enough organizational or financial support to make these spaces work. Teachers reported that the open spaces, without walls dividing the classrooms, were extremely distracting and difficult to teach in, and students agreed. The noise level alone greatly interfered with student concentration.”
Over the years, partitions, shelving and temporary walls divided the spaces; however, there was never a remedy for the lack of walls and doors to create safe spaces in the event of an emergency. The school was in major need of renovation, so much so that it would cost more to renovate to bring the school up to current code regulations than to tear down and reconstruct.
Calhoun City Schools continued to make the best of the learning spaces for more than 50 years.
Recently, the state approved the district’s request for capital outlay funding at 100% of the formula which will allow for more than 33% of the total cost of construction. These funds along with General Fund dollars and SPLOST pay as you go funds will help fund the project.
“It’s now time to address the challenges of noise, internet connectivity, functional spaces, and the biggest concern which has always centered around school safety,” said Superintendent Michele Taylor. “There were many issues with the current facility that kept leadership up at night. We’ve known we needed to address this facility for a while. Unfortunately, a simple renovation was going to be extremely costly due to building codes and issues that could not be overlooked. Another factor was the funding piece. Pre-K does not earn capital outlay funds so we had to be creative with our facilities plan to include kindergarten and wait until we had access to state capital outlay funds and ‘pay as you go’ SPLOST dollars. This transition plan will also allow for enrollment growth at the primary/elementary campus. Many former students have fond memories or recollections of the Eastside building but there are also a lot of anecdotal concerns, more so today.”
Commemorative bricks will be available for all who attended Eastside School. Look for details on social media and the CCS website.
Calhoun PreK and Junior Jacket Academy closed out the school year in the Eastside building on Barrett Road and the 12 classes relocated this summer to the Primary and Elementary Complex facility on Raymond King Drive for the 2020-2022 school years as part of the long range facilities plan.
Architects Robertson, Loia and Roof, have designed an Early Learning Academy which will house the Junior Jacket Academy, PreK and kindergarten. The Calhoun Early Learning Academy will open at the Barrett Road site with 37 regular classroom spaces, a cafeteria, media center and gymnasium. This facility will provide increased opportunities to reach our youngest learners in the community as we continue to inspire all students to become lifelong learners in the pursuit of excellence. Demolition of the Eastside School will begin in August. The Board of Education selected Ra-Lin Construction after a lengthy bid process.
“Ben Garrett and his team will do an outstanding job for us. They constructed the primary / elementary complex in 2004 and the middle and high school campus in 2013-2015. They plan to use as many local businesses as possible. This will get our local economy moving and many back to work. We are excited about that,” said Eddie Reeves, chair of the Calhoun Board of Education.
With demolition beginning soon, both the Calhoun Police Department and the Calhoun Fire Department have been busy conducting drills in the interior and exterior of the facility. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held on Sept. 28.